By Joy Ballard
The selflessness of true love is rare in our culture. But it will transform you and your relationships if you learn to accept it and share it with others.
The Meaning of Love
There is a story in Matthew where Jesus is asked what the most important rule is. The culture at the time was filled with religiosity based on more rules than they could even count, so it was a fair question, basically, “What should we focus on, Jesus?”
I find his answer very helpful. It seems like a good footing to stack everything else upon:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)
Why Self-Love Isn’t the Answer
It seems like everyone (me included) has latched onto this word in those verses: yourself. We have realized that maybe we’ve been taking miserable care of ourselves and therefore the love we have to give is pretty measly.
That’s partly true.
The overall cultural message has been centered around accomplishment, success and the bottom line. People have become so depleted that not only do they have nothing positive left to give to those around them, but they often end up unhealthy, unbalanced and addicted to anything to numb their aching emptiness. They naturally turn toward self rather than others.
Self has become an industry. It sounds healthier, but the bottom line still defines it.
It’s important to care for yourself in order to love people out of a heart that is full of God’s love, not out of duty or resentment. But if we zoom out from what Jesus said in those verses to the picture of his life on earth, the times he withdrew or spent time by himself were for the purpose of connecting with the Father.
True self care as a Jesus follower is finding restoration and refuge in him.
Loving your neighbor as yourself is a pretty great way to live. But there’s an even better way: to love like Jesus loves. What did Jesus do? He sacrificed himself.
The Selflessness of True Love
Jesus takes self out of the equation. It is not because self doesn’t matter. On the contrary, because we each matter more to him than his own life. As daughters of God, our self is now worth the self-sacrificing love of the Son of God.
Jesus LOVES you like you’ve never known love before. Your best self is hidden in his love. Now you are free to love others so that they can experience his love as well!
What do we do then with self-care, self-awareness, and self-love? It is important for us to learn to care for ourselves and discover who God created us to be. Yet it’s equally important to know when self needs to take a backseat to helping someone else. In that act of obedience to Jesus, we are actively trusting him to do through us what we cannot do for ourselves.
If we regularly quiet ourselves to listen to Jesus, he will teach us which people need us to love them that way. It may be the toddler who kept us up all night, the teenager who needs us to listen, or the husband who needs to see grace-filled love expressed through our words and actions.
Let Jesus show you the areas where you can practice selfless love by letting him love others through you.
Wife Step: What does loving others like Jesus look like in your life today?
Joy was born and raised in Mexico, but fell in love with a Minnesota guy. More than a decade, many geographical locations, and four kids later, they are currently settled in the city of Minneapolis, MN. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. Although homeschooling, parenting and helping run their vacation rental take up most of her days, Joy is always finding ways to sneak in time for writing, reading, design and coffee with friends. You can find her posting on Instagram @joy.ballard or @theriverlodgemn. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography
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