In this episode John and Gregg consider a comment by listener Melinda to episode #35, Love is more than grace. Melinda makes three points/questions:
- That internalizing God’s love seems crucial, but sermons and the Bible often don’t seem to support this
- Gregg expressed that “grace is that mode of expression by which God most truly expresses Godself: grace shows God’s love in its truest and best light.” Is grace given too much weight over love?
- Can you offer more discussion on “self-love”? A Bible teacher recently said that self-love is not biblical because none of the ten commandments relate to loving oneself. This teacher thinks that the ‘as yourself’ (i.e., love you neighbor as yourself) is just a reference point, such as, don’t harm others because you wouldn’t want to harm yourself.
John replies that the Bible teacher’s appeal to the ten commandments seems entirely arbitrary, like an “argument from silence” that presumes that this part of Scripture carries more weight than another and that fails to digger deeper to determine if the matter is more complex. Further, in John’s view if we deny healthy self-love we end up losing ourselves: we have no real value and essentially cease to exist.
Gregg’s agrees that this approach takes the biblical text out of context: the ten commandments make no reference to creation, so should we therefore view creation as unimportant? Gregg is even more concerned about the blatant contradiction expressed in viewing the ‘as yourself’ as “just a reference point.” One the one hand the Bible teacher’s example (about not wanting to be harmed) itself amounts to a conclusion about human value derived from reflection upon one’s experience of valuing oneself to different degrees and in different ways, not a mere observation about one’s preferences (such as, “I don’t happen to like being harmed, though other people might”). On the other hand, Gregg is suspicious that distorted logic often conceals deeper issues: in this case, an improper view of self. The big problem with such views is that it effectively allows its holders to treat others in any way that they see fit.
Gregg goes further to explain that failing to love ourselves correctly actually undercuts and denies God’s love for us. So while we are not God’s central concern–that would be God’s kingdom–we are legitimately epicentres of God’s love. For Gregg this misunderstanding results from creating hierarchies out of what is meant to be the living tension between love and truth, such that failing to love myself is denying the very truth that the Bible, by declaring God’s vast love for humanity, is clearly claiming: human beings are of tremendous value to God (and so if to God, then surely to themselves)!
As such, God is also fully engaged in me being enthusiastically engaged in my own life, for the improvement, diversification, and enjoyment of my life. For in this way we become fully human so that we may fully mirror Christ, both in our character (which for Christians is to be Christ-like) and in our personalities (which is for me to most uniquely me, which happens best through my love relationship with God).