The cultivation of self-love is good but it is not what God wants from us
Let me start with a question. How would you feel if you went to see your doctor with a life-threatening illness but he insisted that you were 100% healthy?
If you are like me, you would feel indignant! After all, it’s the doctor’s responsibility to tell us things we don’t want to hear. I have some sobering news for you. There are people all around you telling you things you want to hear when what you need to hear is the truth.
A culture of self-love
You and I live in a culture of self-love. Magazines, books, podcasts, social media communicate the same message: you are good the way you are. Let’s be honest, it feels good to hear someone tell us that, right? Unfortunately, it’s not just the world and social media telling us we’re good enough the way we are. We also hear it from the pulpits too. The “you are enough” mantra is so strong these days that we need to take a step back and consider how destructive this way of thinking really is.
The Bible warns us directly of this problem in 2 Timothy 3:2-5: “But understand this, that in the last days there shall come times of trouble. For people will be in love with themselves… puffed up with vanity, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying his power. Avoid such people.
So we can see what the apostle Paul thinks about the danger of loving yourself. Now let’s turn to Jesus to learn from his life and words.
What do we learn from Jesus?
You may be familiar with the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well in John 4. We all love this story because it is absolutely filled with grace and compassion. Jesus meets a woman who has lived the kind of life that would make her shunned by most of her friends and family. Jesus loved him, but do not lose sight of this often forgotten detail. Jesus loved her so much that he told her the truth.
In John 4:16-18 we find this exchange between Jesus and the woman: “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come hither.’ The woman replied, “I have no husband. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right to say, ‘I have no husband’, for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you said is true.”
What was Jesus doing? Jesus loved her enough to tell her that the way she lived was not pleasing to God. Make no mistake about it, Jesus was pointing out the sin that was in his life. When we love people, we even tell them the things they have trouble hearing.
In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus makes this proclamation: “After the arrest of John, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'”
Jesus tells anyone who will listen that there are two things that must happen for a person to become a Christian. They must believe in him and turn away from their rebellion against God.
Jesus was never going to tell people that they were enough just the way they were. Let me repeat this: Jesus never once said such a thing to anyone.
‘You are enough as you are’ means the cross was not necessary
Here is an incredibly important question. Why did Jesus die on the cross? The place to go to find the answer is the word of God.
In 1 Peter 2:24 we read this: “He himself (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on a tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed.
Jesus took our sins and died on a cross for us, and three days later rose again. If men and women, young and old, were good enough as they are, then Jesus would not have needed to suffer an agonizing death on the cross. The message that “you are enough as you are” goes against the most important thing in the world, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Much better than self love is God’s love
I want to close by making sure you know that “you are enough as you are” is not good news. This is not good news first because it is not true.
Allow me the great pleasure of telling you what good news really looks like. Jesus knows everything about you, the good, the bad and the ugly. Jesus knows the many ways you fled from him and he always loved you so much that he died for you. Instead of quoting self-help mantras to get you through the day, take a look at the cross. The cross reminds each of us that we are more loved by God than we could ever imagine.
Pastor Michael Wallenmeyer serves at New Life Church in Watertown.