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The sermon was given at First Baptist Church of North East, PA on May 3, 2009.
It's barely noticeable, but the tape ministry did edit the sermon for two reasons. First, the sermon is going to air on the radio, so they had to cut out me saying, "I am going to read from the true bible, the ESV." Secondly, they cut out some of the early banter because I was moving stuff around the stage. One joke they did cut was "You know the sermon is over when you hear my father snoring." In all honesty, I wish the church would have given me the original copy, but I do understand the need for editing it.
The following is my sermon notes. Since I did not get the chance to read some of the passages within the sermon notes, please take the time to read them. They will expound on my thinking a little more.
- You will know the sermon is finished when you hear my father snoring.
- Please turn to Leviticus 19:9-18, page 146 in the pew Bible.
- Pray for wisdom, courage, open ears and hearts.
- We live in the technological age of iPhones, iPods, and Myspace. It seems as if we live in a time where individuals are more important than communities – that our individual needs must be met before the community’s. If we have become so egocentric, then why promote self-love? Won’t that perpetuate the cycle? It seems ridiculous to promote self-love in a me society.
- According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 33,000 individuals commit suicide each year. It is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18-65. On an international level, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds. If we love ourselves so much, why did youth suicides nearly triple between 1950 and 1970? Thankfully, in the last decade the numbers have been dropping, but still, 30,000 is a lot of lost souls.
- Why do more than 8 million Americans suffer from eating disorder, according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health? It also has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness? If we love ourselves so much, why are so many men and women suffering from these dreadful diseases?
- Who do we blame for these suicides or eating disorders or low self-image? The obvious answer is to blame ourselves. We are fallen creatures in constant need of God’s grace. However, I would also blame the church. When I speak of the church, I am referring to the universal church, not necessarily First Baptist. The church should represent the goodness of God’s kingdom. Because we are the body of God’s children, we are called to a higher standard. We should be above this world helping it. It seems that either the church focuses too much on the individual, hence some of the ridiculous claims of the health and wealth gospel, or the church tells it congregants to deny oneself, which, at it extreme, may lead to asceticism.
- Perhaps it will be good to understand the narcissistic tendencies of our culture. The term narcissism seems to be used anytime someone is selfish. However, the issue is much deeper than mere selfishness. In fact, I think it explains the increase in suicide and eating disorders, as well as many other major “self-image” problems facing the church. The late Christopher Lasch, a sociologist and author of many books, including Culture of Narcissism, states that narcissists “conform to social rules more out of fear of punishment than from a sense of guilt…These patients suffer from pervasive feelings of emptiness and a deep disturbance of self-esteem.” Later in his book, he describes how a narcissist views himself. “In order to polish and perfect the part he has devised for himself, the new Narcissus gazes at his own reflection, not so much in admiration as in unremitting search of flaws, signs of fatigue, decay.” There is an overwhelming sense of imperfection and a fear of failing. Narcissism isn’t selfishness rooted in self-love; it is rooted in self-hatred. Which begs the question, “how can one love his neighbor if he hates himself?” “How can I share the grace of God, if I haven’t accepted His grace in my life?”
- Leviticus 19:18 states “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
- Varying Views
- One friend suggested that loving your neighbor meant placing your neighbor before yourself. Since we often think of ourselves first, we should place others in that position.
- One commentator suggested, “Many contemporary expositions emphasize the loving of oneself as the first step toward loving one’s neighbor. However, this may result in a self-love that never gets to the loving of others. To be sure, a low self-image plagues and even cripples many folks today, and our highly competitive society often adds to their burden, but many of them can be helped through psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, and caring small groups. But a low self-image need not be a block to loving others and certainly is never an excuse for failure to do so.”
- I don’t disagree with everything, but the problem is more than just low self-esteem. It is self-hatred.
- It should not be a stumbling block. In fact, loving yourself and loving your neighbor should work together.
- John Stott, in his commentary on Romans, stated, “– “Instead we are to affirm all of ourselves which stems from the creation, while denying all of ourselves which stems from the fall.”
- Likewise, he does not think loving yourself is prerequisite to loving your neighbor.
- Author of “It’s a Playboy World,” Paul Banowsky argues “Self-love is a wholesome acceptance that releases the individual from personal preoccupation so he may relate himself to the needs and interests of others…The fundamental motion of self-love is expansion, while that of selfishness is contraction…The person who accepts himself is released to give himself to others; the man who is unsure of his own worth that he must constantly look inward comes to know tragedy of living only for himself.”
- Self-love and loving your neighbor work together. In some ways, it is like an engine with enough gas and oil. Having only one of those things is not going to get the vehicle very far.
- Learning to love through vision and action.
- 1 Corinthians 13
- Do you fail the love test? Each of these attributes of love can be applied to the individual as well to the community.
- Some of us fail and some of us are properly loving ourselves. Either way, we can learn from this passage and apply it to every situation, but especially when dealing with someone who struggles with low self-esteem or even self-hatred.
- Five Understandings to Proper Self-Love
- We are made in the image of God. Therefore, we should not be using self-deprecating humor, nor should we view ourselves as ugly. Granted, we are sinners. Read Psalm 139:13-16.
- Yet, we are fallen creatures in need of God’s perfect grace. But we have our new self replacing our old self. Why should we hate ourselves if Christ is in our lives. Read Lev. 19:34, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:7-8.
- Be humble: false humility vs. true humility. Self-pity vs. pity for others. We were slaves to sin, citizens of the world, but now we are slaves to Christ, citizens of his kingdom. Having been a part of this world, we (the church) must extend grace to those still trapped. Read Philippians 2:1-11; 3:20-21.
- As children of God we are called to be holy. We must strive after it. Read Lev. 19:1-2, Matthew 5:48, John 8:11.
- Love is communal. Love your neighbors. Read Lev. 19:34, Ephesians 4:25, 1 John 4:7-21, Romans 13:9. The law is fulfilled through love. It reflects the ten commandments just as Leviticus 19 reflects the ten commandments.
- Close with prayer. Give us the strength to love ourselves the way you intended us to.
Thanks for taking the time to listen, and as always, leave some feedback.
With much love and peace,