To Love Others, You First Gotta Love You
by Janet Eriksson
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"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" … – Romans 12:10 NKJV
A friend posted this Bible verse from Romans 12:10 for devotions this morning. I hadn’t read this verse in a while. I think the last time I read it, I was mired in self-hatred. That part of my life is behind me, thank God. But it reminded me how much we need to read this verse from the right place in our hearts.
My self-hatred came from pain. I learned it was easier to beat up on myself first. That way when others lashed out, I didn’t feel it. I was in “control” of how I received my pain, and from whom. And I dished it out to myself far worse than anyone else ever could have, even those who had abused me.
As I began to walk through inner healing, God started to convict me, gently at first, about my self-hatred. One evening He drove home the point. I was reading Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, and there was a moment when the Lord was sitting on His throne, clenching His fist on His sword as He watched thousands of children being abused in this one part of the world. My own indignation at abuse rose up. I said, “How can anyone hurt those kids?”
The Lord responded, “Janet, you do the same thing.”
“What?” My indignation soared. “I have never hurt a child. How can You say that, Lord?”
He was quiet for a moment, and then with the tiniest pinprick to my heart, He said, “Janet, you are My child. And you’ve been hurting My kid.”
That pinprick did fast work, draining my heart of all my puffed-up indignation at abuse, and bringing me to the humiliation of realizing how terribly I had hurt God’s child – me.
My self-hatred didn’t stop overnight. But the indignation that fueled it was gone. I was the same as those who had abused me, and far worse. I had also defiled them to abuse me, by my own self-hatred.
As the Lord began to heal me of self-abuse, He brought to my heart today’s devotional verse, along with another:
"Jesus said to him, "‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" – Matthew 22:37-39
In both these passages, we’re asked to honor others as (and above) ourselves, to give them preferential treatment, to hope and pray for God’s very best for them, even above our own, and to rejoice with them in all their blessings – in other words, to honor others as the precious children of the Most High God that they are. As we honor others, we take our focus off ourselves and put it onto them. That doesn’t make us less precious, but it allows us to behold how truly precious other people are.
However … God began to teach me that I couldn’t fulfill these verses if I were stuck in self-hatred. See, I can’t honor someone else above myself, if I’m beating myself up. There’s no room for honor there. I’m down in the mud, kicking myself. If I put someone else above me: (1) even dipping your feet in the mud would be above me; (2) I only put you above me because I hate myself and you’re not me; (3) my motive is all wrong – I put you above me in order to fuel my self-hatred. That’s not honor.
Nor is it genuine humility. God showed me that I couldn’t bow down before Him in genuine humility, if I was already trampled into the ground. He told me that in order to lower myself – before Him, and before others, with the genuine heart of the Lord – I first had to stand up and be who He created me to be and love and honor myself. Only then, standing in my true identity in Christ, could I humbly bow and put God and others above me, in true honor.
From that place of genuine love of who God made me to be, and genuine acceptance of myself, and knowing that Christ lives in me and loves me completely … then I can live out the words in Romans 12:10 and turn to see how truly precious others are, and lift them up with Christ’s love and encouragement and prayer, and rejoice with them in all the Lord does in and through them.
I think the Message version of Romans 12:10 captures this so well, especially the first sentence. Be blessed, as you live this out today:
"Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle." – Romans 12:9-10 MSG
If you struggle with self-hatred as I did, first ask the Lord to show you where that comes from and why it’s got such a hold on you. Ask Him to heal your heart with the truth of how precious you are to Him. I can tell you all day long that you’re precious, but when you ask Him to say it to your heart, you’ll really begin to believe it, and it will change your life, just like it did for me. God doesn’t condemn you for self-hatred (don’t let the enemy heap that guilt on whatever caused your self-hatred in the first place). God is here to help you get free of it.
If you would like for me to pray for you as you walk this out, please send me a note and I will be glad to pray. I am here to say that with God’s help, it is possible to be healed of self-hatred … and five years ago I would have thought that was impossible. Be blessed. God loves you so much.
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