A chorus of many voices is chanting in unison today that I must at all costs love myself; that self-love needs to be added to love for God and neighbor as a much-neglected commandment; and that dire consequences will overtake me if I refuse—frustration, depression, hostility, inertia, and much else besides. A whole new literature is growing up around this theme. In 1976 we had The Art of Learning to Love Yourself by Cecil G. Osborne (Zondervan), and in 1977 Loving Yourselves by Ray Ashford (Fortress), Celebrate Yourself by Bryan Jay Cannon (Word), and Love Yourself by Walter Trobisch (InterVarsity).
I intended to write a column on this topic when John Piper got in first and cast his “one small vote against the cult of self-esteem,” in his article Is Self-Love Biblical? (See the August 12, 1977, issue, page 6.) I appreciated what he wrote. But then I also appreciated the points made in the letters section in the following issue. Now that the dust has settled a bit, maybe the time has come to stir it up again. I shall begin with a negative critique, but then I shall try to affirm positively and biblically what, it seems to me, the advocates of self-love are really after.
The way that some writers are arguing, namely that we are commanded to love ourselves just as we are commanded to love God and our neighbor, is untenable for at least three reasons.
First, and grammatically speaking, the command “love your neighbor as yourself” is not a command to love both my neighbor and myself, but a command to love my neighbor as much as, in fact, I love myself. That is, self-love is not a virtue that Scripture commends, but one of the facts of our humanity that it recognizes and tells us to use as a standard. The best commentary is the Golden ...
John R. W. Stott (1921 – 2011) is known worldwide as a preacher, evangelist, author, and theologian. For 66 years he served All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, England, where he pioneered effective urban evangelistic and pastoral ministry. During these years he authored more than 50 books, and served as one of the original Contributing Editors for Christianity Today. Stott had a global vision and built strong relationships with church leaders outside the West in the Majority World. A hallmark of Stott's ministry was his vision for expository biblical preaching that addresses the hearts and minds of contemporary men and women. In 1969 he founded a trust that eventually became Langham Partnership International (www.langham.org), a ministry that continues his vision of partnership with the Majority World Church. Stott was honored by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."1
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