Jesus was once asked to name the greatest commandment.
And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus said the second commandment was like the first, that we should love our neighbor as our self. In other words, the amazing measuring stick of loving our neighbor is our own self-love! Love of self is the necessary precondition to loving others. How we perceive our self will unconsciously be projected into our relationships with others. This alone will answer many questions.
Romans 12:3 tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. But notice that it does not forbid us thinking highly of ourselves, only thinking more highly than we ought. The Lord does not instruct us to think poorly of our self, only to not think more highly than we ought. It is a common teaching in some circles that we should see ourselves as some lowly, rotten, worthless creature. This is NOT how the Lord views us, neither before or after we are born again. We need to have a balanced, Biblical perception of our self. Some falsely believe that thinking highly of themselves or loving themselves is pride; however, the opposite is actually true. Not thinking as highly as God does about ourselves is in fact false humility, a deadly hidden pride that fails to accept oneself as God commands.
“As a man thinks within himself so is he.” Proverbs 23:7
What we believe about ourselves is what we tend to become. For example, if we believe in evolution, how do you think that would affect our view of our identity, purpose and destiny? When we sift through the layers of the evolutionary process, we eventually come to the logical conclusion that our identity is founded on an animal, and eventually, on a protoplasmic mass. If we believe we came from an animal, then it will be both permissible and even appropriate to act like one because that is what we are. Our thoughts have determined our outcome. Animals live only by instincts, drives, and appetites aimed at self-preservation, protection, and procreation. This is just one example of how dangerous it can be to believe a lie about our identity. Believing the truth of “who” we are and “what” we are will help us to determine our purpose and our destiny. The Bible tells us to retrain the way we think by “renewing” our minds.
Sometimes our jobs or the activities we engage in slowly begin to form our identity. Before I began “pastoring” full time, I owned a motorcycle parts and repair shop. I identified myself much of the time as a motorcycle mechanic and business owner. I believed that this is who I was. Of course I knew I was a Christian, but I took pride in being a motorcycle mechanic, as well as being a business owner. Over time I found that I received most of my significance or value from these titles and activities. My identity came to be based on what I “did” and what I owned, not on who I truly “was”. As long as I performed up to certain standards and made profits, my self-worth was inflated, but if the opposite happened, I was deflated and felt devalued. Therefore, how I felt about myself was directly linked to performance, circumstances, and others’ reactions. As I look back now, I realize my identity began to be defined by my job title and job performance rather than by God’s Word. The shift was very subtle and slow, but nevertheless continued to occur, and I didn’t realize it was happening at the time. I have found that this is a very “normal” pattern of behavior for many people and especially men.
How often have we gained our definition of our identity from our occupation, performance or title instead of God’s definition of us? How do we finally come to realize we are valuable simply because we exist? If we belong to God, He will force the question of identity upon us by pulling out the props, exposing the very things, people, and circumstances that gave meaning to our lives in this way. He will compel us to dig deep and find out what He thinks of us, and what we think of ourselves when the people are gone, the things removed, and the circumstances forever changed.
This is what happened to me. I felt that the Lord was calling me to sell my business, stop repairing motorcycles, and work full time as a youth pastor. So, I did just that. I sold all of my equipment and most of my hand tools. This put me in a position where I was unable to work on motorcycles even if I wanted to. I felt like my heart was being ripped from me, but I knew I wanted to obey God. All I had ever known was working on motorcycles, and I loved it. I didn’t know how to make a living in any other way, and I felt like my security was gone. I felt empty, lost. Then, the Lord asked me a question that changed my life, “Who are you now?” I didn’t know the answer to that question, so I began a journey to find out. It is imperative that each of us discover the answer to who we are, and find the value God has placed upon us as His beloved children without reference to our career, job, position, marriage, or parenthood, etc.
After each of the first five days of creation God said, “and God saw that it was good.” At the end of the sixth day, which was the day God created man, He did not say the same thing He repeated for five days. After God created man He said, “and behold, it was VERY good.”
To be continued…