Read: 1 John 4:7-21
Have you ever really wanted to do something but your children had other plans. My wife and I once spent the majority of a day at King’s Island riding boring rides in kiddie land. For two thrill seekers, it was difficult not to try to talk our young kids (and the ride operators) that we would have more fun riding The Vortex over Charlie Brown’s Swinging Tree. You’ve heard it said that before you can love others, you must first love yourself. In other words, “Just keep riding Diamondback, Trent. Your kids will enjoy watching you. You deserve this. If you’re not happy, nobody will be happy. Etc.” Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with doing something fun for yourself every now and then. But in this instance, would I be loving myself (and by extension, loving my kids) by doing what I wanted to do? Or would I be kidding myself?
When people say “you must love yourself before you can love others,” aren’t they really saying, “Me before you?” That satisfying my desires is more important than meeting your needs? This is not the way of love! This is selfishness, plain and simple. I knew what I had to do. We spent most of the day riding the most non-thrill seeking rides in the history of theme parks.
The human dilemma is not that we’re too concerned about the needs of others. Our problem is that we are homo incurvatus—a Latin phrase meaning “man curved in on himself.” Picture a man trying to crawl into his stomach—or better yet, a man waving at his wife and kids from the top of the Drop Tower.
“Our lifelong love for ourselves is the one love affair that most of us never abandon,” “We see it in the way people pursue their careers, always trying to get ahead of someone else. We see it in the way they spend their money, using it for personal pleasure rather than the public good. We see it in the way they treat their families: neglecting their children, abandoning their spouses, putting old people away. People live this way because they are in love with themselves.”
When Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” he’s not suggesting we need to love ourselves more. We seem to do that just fine. What we need to do is consider the needs of others as significant as our own.
Sin curves us in. Love propels us out. Sin is self-interested: “It’s all about me! My wants! My wishes! My desires!” Love it other-oriented: “What’s in his or her best interest?”
Jesus does not insist on his own way. If that were his M.O., Jesus never would’ve lowered himself to wash the disciples feet. He would have never gone to the cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed three times, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39.) Jesus didn’t want to die this way. He wasn’t jazzed about dying on a cross. If there were an easier way for Jesus to save the human race, he would’ve welcomed it.
But did Jesus say, “I gotta do me before I can take care of you”? No. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This, Jesus did. And he did it for you. Love does not insist on its own way and neither should we.