The previous posts in this series focused on:
Behavior cycles and Identity — Understanding how we the interactions between our identity, experiences, and behavior.
Identity Part 1 — Foundations of how we identify with certain values and tenants of this life and how they affect us and what we should look for instead.
Identity Part 2 — Understanding rebellion against what our identity should be in Christ.
Identity Part 3 — Understanding how internal and external identity shapes who we are and how we can recalibrate it correctly to be in line with the Scriptures.
Today I’ll be discussing deception in understand concept of unselfishness and selfishness as Christians and how exposing the lie allows us to submit to the process of developing into godly Christians.
Submitting to the process
In God doesn’t owe you anything and not personal responsibility but stewardship, I talked about the nature of how God entrusts us with certain things to steward. Specifically, those who are responsible with little are given more to handle as they are found trustworthy to handle the little they have been given.
In more recent posts such as Dominion and Dominion Part 2, I discussed the hierarchy of responsibility that we are all given. Specifically for men, it is first to be entrusted with dominion and mastery over yourself, then a wife, then a wife and children. This is the process that men must undergo.
I think for those of us that are single we are short sighted in our understanding of what it means to be selfish and unselfish.
Two years ago I could say that I desired a wife and that I would be unselfish in marriage and able to serve her needs. However, looking back now what I could say is that I had very little mastery and dominion over myself. I had very little concept of how to love myself properly in line with God’s Word. How then much of a disaster would it have been for me to attempt to love another, treat her as a co-heir in Christ, and not be embittered to a wife that is going to be different than me? Surprise: men and women are different.
There is an interesting Sun Tzu quote that speaks to this in terms of war, but the concept can easily be applied to human relationships in general:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu
Successful marriages are relationships that are forged out of good conflict management. Those that do not have good communication and the willingness to approach conflict as an opportunity to grow and become closer will have their marriage inevitably fail. In other words, if you don’t understand yourself — your desires and needs — then you will be confused and it will only add to the confusion in times of conflict.
This is the interesting dichotomy present. The vast majority of Christians would call it selfish to focus on how to love yourself, to discipline yourself, to master yourself, and to take dominion over yourself to focus only on your desires and needs in the context of your relationship with God. However, this is the most unselfish thing to do in the kingdom of God because prior to marriage you only have responsibility over yourself and generalized relationships.
Understanding selfishness and unselfishness
I was even deceived into this thinking except through revelation of growth in God in the past few months. All the church tells you is that it is selfish to focus on loving yourself, and that the most glorious thing in the world is to love others.
However, Christians think that it is selfish to focus on yourself ignoring what is said about the greatest commandment(s):
Mark 12:28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the [q]foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
How can you love your neighbor, except to the extent that you love yourself?
The most common objection that is brought up to this is that it is arrogant or prideful to love yourself. This is indeed true, if loving yourself meant loving yourself at the expense of others, even so far as putting them down or esteeming yourself better than them.
Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also [l]walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful (or strive for vain glory), challenging one another, envying one another.
Philippeans 2:3 Do nothing [c]from [d]selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude [e]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
It is clear that the Scriptures do not sanction “pride” given the reading above. We are to love others as we love ourselves or even in humility better than ourselves. However, this says nothing about the love that we should have for ourselves.
This is the common deception in churchian line of thought that because one thing is stated as potentially having more importance than another that the other thing is bad. Humility comes to mean an action of being “unselfish” and treating others better than ourselves all the time. In reality humility is an attitude that tempers our pride so we can more fully love God, ourselves, and others without becoming outwardly boastful and unwilling to serve others.
The essence of the Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit is love, which means that the trinity is fully in love and thus unity with themselves. Insomuch that God is love, they are able to love us unconditionally. God is perfectly secure in His ability to love Himself that He isn’t put off when people scream obscenities at Him, or deny His existence, or hate Him for whatever reason. Yet, in His love while we were yet sinners He sent Christ to die for us.
This is somewhat of a re-explanation of a similar concept to what I talked about in Identity Part 2 — Subtle rebellion where there is rebellion against God, yourself, and others. This is the key point because yourself comes before your neighbor. If you don’t love yourself, how are you going to love your neighbor?
Think of all of the broken people in your life. I know people that are fatherless, drug addicts, porn addicted, divorce riddled, liars, cheaters, thieves, and the like. They do not know how to love God, nor themselves, or others. Yet, the change you see in the godly is first internal.
Those who are secure in loving God and loving themselves have internalized their identity. They have developed a value system for which they interact with the world based on the Scriptures. It is only then after loving God and understanding how to love themselves, that they are able to love others more fully. When others respond negatively to them they can realize that it is not them that the others are offended at the majority of time but the life experience which as colored their perception of the actions of others.
They aren’t insecure in themselves and who God made them to be that they have to respond in anger, or in frustration, or in mistrust, or any other conflict of relationship. Instead, they can seek to understand and help the other person grow and strengthen the relationship.
Indeed, the gold standard is set three times in Ephesians 5:
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church [q]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she [r]respects her husband.
The standard is set for a man to love His wife as Christ loves the Church. But what does that mean? The analogy that applies to Christ’s love for the Church is reiterated as how a husband loves himself. Then it is reinforced again saying that a husband should love His wife as himself.
This is a direct parallel to the greatest commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” and Jesus’ new command He gives us in John 13:34-35 and John 15:17: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Thus, the standard is set. Love Jesus -> Love yourself -> Love your wife. All three as one.
The tripartite greatest command has a flow to it. Although no parts are more important than the other, the flowing action of understanding how to apply the Truth has far reaching consequences for Christians.
- Love God -> Love yourself -> Love your neighbor
It’s a sound concept, but crazy to those of us who were indoctrinated with churchianized theology. As we seek to love God by developing our relationship with Him in the Scriptures, prayer, meditation, fasting, and the like, we more fully understand His great love for us. As we more fully understand His great love for us and learn how to love ourselves as He loves us, then we are more fully able to love our neighbors. This is the beauty of the logical nature of the Scriptures and responsibility hierarchy.
If this could be put a different way, it is prioritizing the personal relationship with God-yourself over that of yourself-neighbor. For out of the relationship with God we learn to love others as we are conformed to His image. It is in no way selfish to understand that you absolutely need to love yourself in order to more fully realize the responsibility of being a Christian, and ultimately the responsibility that comes with marriage if you desire to marry. If you cannot fully master your desires and needs with God and with yourself, then it is virtually impossible to love your neighbor without a full measure of grace.
Prioritizing others above your needs works for a time but leads to burn out. This is doing ministry without the love of God. Those who neglect God and themselves will burn out trying to love others because the Spirit of God is not working in them; they are subsisting off only their gifts and talents which are without repentance (Romans 11:29).
I know that as I more fully comprehend how to love and serve God and how to love and take responsibility for myself, the more fully ready I will be for the responsibility of marriage. It is not selfish to love yourself rather unselfish; it is part of the process that develops and prepares you for marriage. Love for God and for ourselves in mastery and discipline — tempered in kindness, long-suffering, and humility — allows the Spirit to work through us to love as God has loved us.
Understanding in regard to attraction
This is somewhat of a rhetorical question that again answers the “attraction” mythos: The vast majority of Christian men don’t know how much God loves them nor do they love themselves. If they don’t seek God and love and value themselves, then what woman will?
- Responsible for loving God -> Responsible for loving yourself -> responsible for loving your wife.
I’ve seen much confusion in the Christian manosphere as to why women are attracted to certain dark triad traits being that they are “evil.” Let me be clear: God did not make any mistakes in that women are attracted to narcissistic-like attitude.
Ultimately, we were created to fully love God, to fully love ourselves, and to fully love others. Women love narcissists because they fully love themselves. They see a man that fully loves himself and has placed high value on himself and they love it. However, the problem with narcissists is that they don’t love God nor do they love others. Thus, women in general are attracted to narcissists but are ultimately unfulfilled by them becaue they are selfish above all.
Narcissism is based solely off self interest whereas the love that Christians must exhibit is the tripartite love. The love of the self is not complete except with the Love of God and obedience to His commands and loving your neighbor as yourself. The love of God and the love of others is what tempers Christians from becoming narcissistic. Thus, it is good to love yourself as God loves you and created you, but not at the expense of a failure to love God and others.
This is yet another angle on identity in Christ and internal unshakable confidence that should result from it. Loving God results in loving yourself and loving yourself allows you to love your neighbor as yourself. All are to be conformed to loving one another as Christ has loved us.