Joel Osteen's, Your Self-Image Life NowShould Christians Love Themselves or Base Their Value on Self? <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Commentary Opinion by By Brannon S. Howse
How's your (self) love life?
Christian happy-talk pastor, Joel Osteen wants to make sure it's real fine-that you're treating yourself to all the feel-good goodies you deserve. It's so important to his message, in fact, that loving good ol' #1 is a key step in the pursuit of that best life of yours. In Your Best Life Now, Osteen intones, "The second step to living your best life now is developing a healthy self-image."
Joel Osteen, Robert Schuler and many of today's postmodern pastors preach and teach the need to love yourself or to grasp a positive self-image. But is this biblical? Should our focus be on our own self-worth? Let's put down the happy-talk books and pick up the Bible for the answer.
Those that argue self-love, self-esteem or having a healthy self-image are biblical often justify their teaching by using Leviticus 19:18 which Jesus quotes in Luke <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />10:27-"you shall love your neighbor as yourself." In the Leviticus passage, God's instructions include a list of ways we should treat other individuals respectfully in our daily conduct. The direction never shifts from social interaction to descriptions of inner worship or affirmation of one's own goodness.
When Jesus uses the passage, He clearly is saying Christians should automatically look out for the best interests of others and not simply to think of their own well-being, even though self-interest would be the natural (but in many instances sinful) reflex of every human. Jesus' instruction is an admonishment to avoid being selfish or self-centered.
Self-love in Leviticus and Luke refers to a person's natural compulsion to watch out for his or her own welfare. In the physical realm, this allows people to survive. Dr. John McArthur explains it this way:
Therefore self-love in these texts refers to a person's natural compulsion for his own welfare in every facet of life-physical and emotional. In the physical realm, it is the characteristic that allows people to survive-being an instinctive, basal motivation that does not require a lengthy decision-making process. It seeks to gain pleasure and avoid pain as a simple matter of reflex; it compels a person to eat when he is hungry and sleep when he is tired. This drive can result in an action as simple as a child flinching when pricked by a thorn or as complex as an outdoorsman building a cabin for shelter. In simpler terms, it is that unlearned, intuitive prompting that gives human beings enough sense to "get in out of the rain."
So you see, it is the kind of self-love that causes you to look both ways before crossing the street, to brush your teeth so they do not rot, to wear a helmet when mountain biking through rough terrain, or to get out of the pool when you hear thunder so as not to be struck by lighting.
Biblical self-love is common to all people-Christian as well as non-Christian-and in neither is it based on a conscious understanding of a person's value to God or the imago Dei. This self-love is instinctive, spontaneous, and effortless. It needs no lessons, encouragement, or therapy. Impulse drives it and consistency characterizes it. We're not talking about self-aggrandizing psychology here-just basic survival instincts. Esteem takes us into another category of thinking altogether.
How can Osteen and others justify their theology that a Christian should have a healthy self-image, self-esteem or love for self, when we are called to die to self, to pick up our crosses, and hate our own lives (Luke 14: 26, 27)? The Bible tells us to boast only in Christ and the work of the cross (Galatians 6:14), to have confidence in the Lord and not in our own works or abilities apart from Christ (Proverbs 14:6). In 2 Corinthians 12:9 we are told to boast in our weaknesses so the power of Christ may be seen in us.
To teach self-esteem-or its corollary, mankind's basic goodness-is to say that man really was not 100% in need of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. It is to say people were pretty much good enough to face judgment, and perhaps all the cross really did was to shore up our natural human failings, shortcomings, or flaws-not redeem some overwhelming condition like depravity.
The truth is, we are not good, honorable or deserving of respect based on self. Only in and through Christ Jesus do the fruit and actions of my life have any merit. And that merit is not about myself but about Christ Jesus and His saving work. The action or work that is worthy of merit can only happen when I die to self as described in Romans 6 and 8.
This dying to self is so complete that it may even require the giving up of the self-preservation style of love we've agreed is legitimate. The Christian that has surrendered his or her life to Christ may be called to reject even this natural reflex and accept places and positions that are not safe, secure, comfortable, and free of danger.
If the martyrs of Christian history had put the natural reflex of self-love before their Christian calling, they would have done what was in the best interest of self-preservation rather than submit to premature death. But by preaching the gospel when it was illegal, punishments, torture, and death were often assured. The martyrs denied the reflex of self-preservation because they placed a higher priority on fulfilling the will of God through their lives.
The challenge for the true convert of Christ in today's postmodern world is to be quick to recognize and reject the false teaching of self-love as taught by its humanistic and psychological proponents-even if the proponent's name has a "Rev." in front of it. We also must be willing to reject the natural reflex of self-comfort and self-preservation when it comes in conflict with God's desire for us and our living out biblical truth. It may not be Joel Osteen's version of your best life, but it matches Jesus' way to achieve one that is abundant.
Click here to read part I: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/secure/cwnetwork/article.php?&ArticleID=498
Click here to read part II: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/secure/cwnetwork/article.php?&ArticleID=505
1The Master's Seminary (1997-2002) Master's Seminary Journal, Volume 8, p. 222.
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