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  • Writer's pictureSusan

Loving Ourselves

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

So many people today are looking for emotional, physical, mental and spiritual meaning in the world. Some are finding it in spirit guides, self help books and all kinds of seminars and workshops supporting a growing, multi-billion dollar industry. There is a hunger in humanity - a desire to love and be loved on a deeper, more meaningful level. Yet, there is a complete lack of understanding of what it is that we're missing. We feel it in our innermost being, but we can't put a finger on it! We'd do anything to fill this void, but then would we?

The solution is love; not the kind of sentimental exchange you find in romcoms and romantic novels, and not the kind of narcissistic love in self help books and YouTube videos, but the truest sense of love - other-centered, self sacrificing, actionable love. The kind of love that gives, but doesn't expect a return. The kind of love that leads a fire fighter into the blaze to save a child; a soldier to take a bullet for a friend; a mother to shield her infant from a wild animal; and a Savior to the cross.

It doesn't cost anything, but it costs everything. Without it, we whither and die as we separate ourselves from the life-giver. This is the emptiness we feel as we drift farther from the heart of God, who is love. Thankfully, we have a Savior who has not abandoned us. He understands what gives us life and how we are designed to operate. His commands, given from a heart of love, are instructions for us to live most fully and abundantly; to experience love and to pass it on to others.

The First Great Commandment to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength is designed to address our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well being. Only when we fully address each of these areas, in relation to God, do we find holistic healing and wellness. As our designer, creator and savior, God gives us the gift of love; to experience, but then He bids us to share it with others. When we are healed in our heart, soul and mind and have a strong relationship with God, we are in a position to accept ourselves! The healing that comes, from choosing to see ourselves in the light of God's love, opens us up to self-acceptance. When we can accept and love ourselves, we have a greater capacity to reach out to others in empathy and compassion. Only then, can we effectively, fulfill the requirements of the Second Great Commandment to love others as we love ourselves.

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Heart - Emotional Health

Have no other gods before Me

The law of worship states that you become like what you worship. So how would you describe your own character? Which god are you worshiping? Emotional healing is only possible when we understand that God is love and embrace what it means to love. It is critical then, that we understand who God is and reject the counterfeit. Many Christians worship a God who uses coercion and force to make us obey an arbitrary law and who will angrily torture and kill us if we do not follow Him. Jesus came to dispel the lies about His character and in 1 John 4:18 and 16, we see that "God is love". So what does that mean? In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the 'Love Chapter', we find a definition of love. Read through it and slowly digest each statement.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

When we understand the God of Love, we begin to reflect His image. The same is true of a god who would use coercion, force or lies and manipulations. If we find ourselves tending toward the latter characteristics, we must examine who we are worshipping. Who is the king of our heart? God bids us to follow Him. It is for our own healthy character development that we follow the right God! Even if the only name we give Him is love, understanding the characteristics of love can lead us to experience healthy emotions and encourage a culture of compassion and empathy toward others.

Soul - Physical Health

Don't make graven images or bow down to them

The soul is our living, breathing, physical being. Man became a living soul, when God breathed the breath of life into Adam. When we die, our breath or spirit goes back to God until we are resurrected, but our soul is not a separate ethereal part of us. It is us.

Physical health and how we use our bodies are very important to God. We are a dwelling place for His Spirit and He wants us to be of sound mind and body so we can discern spiritual matters and demonstrate practical love to others. If we pollute our physical bodies, we stunt our spiritual capabilities with appetite and addictions and waste time that could be used to edify ourselves and humanity. Worshipping the true God will always lift humanity to a higher standard; encouraging service, respect, dignity and freedom. God never uses temptation, addiction, coercion or force in His service.

Making graven images and bowing down to them degrades and enslaves humanity. Any time we create activities or things that have the ability to steal our heart, soul, mind and strength away from us and God, we are setting up a graven image. We bow down to these idols, when we give in to greed, addiction, compulsions or desires to possess and be possessed. Anything that can suck the life out of us and take our focus off of living a life filled with love and compassion, is a trap. We ultimately end up sacrificing ourselves and others, when we obsess and use our time and efforts to bow down to useless idols. We abuse ourselves, as God would never have us do, and others suffer from our abuse. Only by focusing on God, do we have the freedom to break free of these things that bind us into servitude and cause those around us pain and suffering. Many are fooled into thinking they have freedom when they partake in these kinds of activities, but it is an illusion. Nothing that comes from God is an addiction. The only freedom we have, is in Him and the people who appreciate that the most, are those that have broken free.

Mind - Mental Health

Don't take the name of the Lord in vain

Living your life, contrary to what you believe or profess, is taking God's name, "Christian" in vain. Swearing, by God's name, is a symptom, but not the issue. Any time, we reject the proddings of our conscience, it is damaging to our mental health and if we are Christian, we destroy the reputation of the Christian faith. How many people hate Christians? You don't have to look far to see how "Christians" have abused others and brought shame on the name of God. So, what is going on here?

How we view God, can significantly impact our behavior and our mental health, in a positive or negative way. Do we view God as a loving, nurturing, self sacrificing being, or is our god arbitrary, judgmental and vindictive? Many Christians today, believe the latter. You can see it on the news and in their behavior. In fact, all through history, ever since Eve chose to listen to the serpent, confusion, about who God is, has persisted.

The bible says that God is love, and we have already established what love is. But what god do you serve? Does your god say, I love you, but if you don't obey... I'm going to torment you forever? That doesn't sound like love, and it certainly doesn't sound like freedom. That is a prime example of using fear to coerce you into behaving! Fear never won anyone's heart and neither did coercion. These are Satan's methods and they lead some to despair. It makes sense that some Christians operate from a perspective of fear and others use that fear to their advantage becoming as abusive as the god they believe in.

If we become like what we worship, and our view of God is warped, it makes sense that some Christians behave badly. But did you know, they are giving God a bad name and misrepresenting His character. This is what it means to take the name, Christian in vain? Are you taking the name, Christian in vain?

"In that day, seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by your name."

Seven = completeness

Women = churches

One man = Christ

Bread = God's word, the Bible

Apparel = Jesus' righteousness (He has the power to forgive and transform our character)

I think it's safe to say that this verse indicates that many if not most of the Christian churches will not be following the Bible and will have their own brand of righteousness, but it won't be the truth.

Understanding God's character of love is incredibly important. Your character reflects the god you worship and if it is less than loving, you need to draw nearer to the God of the Bible. We need God's bread and His robes of righteousness!

So, what if you behave negatively and choose to hold onto selfish desires, manipulative tendencies, coercive and forceful tactics? Over time, you end up searing your conscience and warping your character. Operating in opposition to our conscience causes pain and suffering, but not only for others. We damage our own mental health in the process.

When our behavior impacts those around us, we destroy the opportunity for God to influence their lives positively. They see God with the attributes we have demonstrated. For those of us who claim to be Christians, but do not use Christ's methods of healing the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual conditions in the world, we destroy the reputation of Christianity and the understanding of God's character of love. Choosing to love others and demonstrate that love practically, forms a relationship between the caregiver and receiver and awakens a desire, in them, for relationship with God. We can only attract people to God with love and freedom. Love does not flourish where there is no freedom.

Focusing our energy on helping others to relieve suffering, has been shown to greatly increase our sense of self worth and feelings of fulfilment, while focusing on selfish desires can lead to isolation, depression and feelings of self loathing. Recognizing the attributes of God and allowing yourself to be transformed into His likeness should result in healthy relationships with God and others. If it doesn't, you need to determine which god you are serving and make sure you are not taking the name Christian in vain.

Strength - Spiritual Health

Remember the Sabbath

God is all about relationships! Our relationship with God and our relationships with others is our strength and the basis for good spiritual health. Our relationship with God is one based on trust as symbolized by resting in Him. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. He gifts it to us freely! All He wants in return is for us to get to know Him and develop a friendship. It is also a symbol of who He is, our designer and creator and He would never use His power to coerce, force or manipulate us to do His will. The Sabbath is His sign, written on our forehead and hands. Our forehead is symbolic of our thoughts and the seat of our conscience. Our hands are symbolic of our actions. The Sabbath is also God's seal on the Ten Commandments, written on our hearts as the law of love towards God and others. The Sabba Oath is His promise to us that He is our God, the One who will redeem us and no other. We honor it, by connecting with other Sabbath keepers in fellowship and developing our community by getting to know each other intimately, sharing in our lives and trials, searching God's word and forming ministries to reach out into the world and share Jesus with others. The Sabbath is a memorial, in time, of our relationship with God who gives us strength, and it is a day to form relationships with others and find our strength in our community. God could have made a place or object a memorial, but He chose to give us a day; something that all of us could experience and be a part of. Something to look forward to and be ready for, just the same as His redemption, when He comes back to take us to Heaven. He bids for us to remember... Remember, because it has been forgotten. It is a memorial in time, set by the Creator and is a sign of the God we worship.

Never Ending Tide of Love

Learning to love God, ourselves and others is a never-ending process as we grow closer to the heart of God. Love continually gives and receives flowing out and back again in a never ending tide. It is infinite with no limits to it's height or depth, no limits to how many it can encompass, no limits of time or space. The reason for existence, the meaning of life, the answer that has been alluding us is love. Gaining an understanding of it, reveling in it and sharing it in healthy, God-breathed relationships is our purpose. Seeing ourselves in the light of God's love is the life-saving remedy for emotional, physical, mental and spiritual vitality that leads us to love others. This is the good news of the Gospel! This is the work that Jesus carried out in His life among us and this is what He bids us to do. Healing washes over us as we allow ourselves to be submersed in other-centered love and transformed in our spirit into the very likeness of God... and God is love.

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