What does the Bible say about self-love, loving self?

Question: "What does the Bible say about self-love, loving self?"

The thought behind "you must love yourself before you can love others" is that you cannot love unless you know what love is. Loving oneself is an act of understanding, nurture, care, and acceptance. Thus, the premise is that love cannot be given if it is not first had. Consider just a few passages in Scripture that address this:

Romans 13:9-10, "For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting-and any other commandment - are all summed up in this one commandment: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God's requirements."

John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

1 John 4:16-19, "We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. We love each other as a result of his loving us first."

Love as described in the Bible is quite different from love as espoused by the world. Biblical love is selfless and unconditional, whereas the world's love is characterized by selfishness and limited. In the above passages it is readily seen that love does not exist apart from God, and that true love can only be experienced by one who has experienced God's own love first-hand.

The statement, "love your neighbor as yourself" is not a command to "love yourself." It is natural and normal to love yourself. The fact that the vast majority of people in the world care for their own needs is testament to the fact that "love for self" is not lacking. The statement, "love your neighbor as yourself" is essentially saying, "treat other people as good as you treat yourself." The idea of "loving yourself" as a command of Scripture is not accurate. The Bible presumes that people are already loving themselves too much - that is the problem. We are to take our eyes off of ourselves and care for others. At the same time, self-hate is equally unbiblical. The Bible nowhere instructs us to hate ourselves.

We love ourselves based on God's abiding love for us, and in response to this love we share it with all whom we come in contact with—our "neighbors." In fact it could be argued that were someone to NOT love themselves it would be an act of sin, as it would, in essence, be rejecting God's love. Perhaps a more biblical phrase would be, "You must love one another out of obedience to God, which cannot be done outside of experiencing God's love yourself in the first place and accepting what that love reveals about yourself.”

Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson.

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What does the Bible say about self-love, loving self?