Self-Love — Does Scripture Really Endorse It?

No.

That’s right. I answered the question in my title immediately, and with only one word. By doing so, I probably killed any incentive you had to read a full blog post on this topic. But please stay with me. There’s a reason we need to look at this issue.

This question once again popped up on Twitter last week, making me heave a sigh of exasperation as people twist Scripture to accommodate the idea that Jesus advocated self-love as the prerequisite for loving others. (Mark 12:31 quotes Jesus as saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself”). The logic goes that we can’t properly love other people until we’ve learned to love ourselves. Therefore, we must first cultivate self-love. That cultivation, the logic continues, gives us the ability to love others. The argument concludes with the confident assertion that Jesus taught us to love ourselves.

There’s a modicum of truth to the premise that, to care for someone’s physical needs, you must first attend to your own. If my Personal Care Attendant neglects her health so that she can’t come to work due to illness, I’m stuck in bed until we can find an available backup. Obviously, I need her to take care of herself in order for her to take care of’ me.

But the concept of self-love goes well beyond the practicality of making sure you’re physically able to help others. Look at this opening paragraph from an article in Good Therapy:

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Throwback Thursday: Speaking The Truth In Love Does Not Mean People Will Feel The Love

Originally published September 21, 2020:

Quite often, you’ll hear Christians quote the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” (a phrase from Ephesians 4:15), as if it was a fully fledged point of doctrine. Moreover, you’ll hear them emphasize love, almost as if it truth holds little consequence. By implication, love requires us to make truth palatable, even if it means changing truth or covering it up.

In the early 21st Century, love demands that we never hurt someone’s feelings.

And that’s where discernment bloggers (even the legitimate ones) get in trouble. We call out false teachers and/or identify unbiblical practices, trying our best to be charitable. And even when we manage to be charitable enough that some people accuse us of fence sitting, we still have readers calling us self-righteous and arrogant. According to most people, speaking the truth is the antithesis of speaking in love.

Maybe we should look at Ephesians 4:15 in its context to see what the apostle Paul meant.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. ~~Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB)

Doesn’t it sound as if Paul emphasizes truth in this passage? He concedes that truth must be presented lovingly, but actually love compels us to present truth and refute error.

Obviously, you can speak truth unlovingly. We’ve all read discernment blogs that, although they pointed out the errors of a given false gospel with extreme accuracy, evidenced no desire to see either that teacher or the followers of that teacher repent and receive God’s mercy. We must acknowledge the sad reality that sometimes the truth is spoken without love.

Usually, however, we don’t detect the love that inspires a blogger to say the truth about a given false teacher. Many times, our anger and hatred toward falsehood — an anger and hatred that Christians should feel and express — makes it difficult to see the love for truth that motivates the blogger. Although their demeanor certainly appears unloving, love very much compels him or her to call out that false teacher.

It’s easy to throw brickbats when a discernment blogger names a false teacher. It’s much more difficult to investigate that blogger’s claims by measuring the false teacher against God’s Word.

Most discernment bloggers have done their research, and consequently know why a teacher threatens the doctrinal purity of the Church. Rather than vilify someone who loves Christ’s body enough to warn them about dangerous teachers. perhaps we ought to appreciate their courage. Perhaps we should thank them for loving us enough to speak the truth.

A Landmark Anniversary And Thoughts About Marriage For People With Disabilities

Okay, so for most of you, August 24, 2002 was just an average summer Saturday. You probably can’t remember what you did that day, nor do you really care. I understand. Saturdays come and go usually without much fanfare, and 2002 was, after all, 20 years ago.

But on that Saturday, my life changed dramatically. I entered the church as a single woman, and left it as Mrs. John A. Kespert. Your average summer Saturday turned almost everything in my life upside down and inside out as I started living with a man for the first time since my father died 39 years earlier. These past 20 years have taken me in directions I couldn’t have imagined, sometimes exposing my sin and sometimes showing me the grace of the Lord in the midst of trials. I’ve seen John’s feet of clay, and I’ve seen his Christlike character.

Landmark occasions all but demand some sort of retrospective commentary. But how does a blogger sift through 20 years of memories to come up with a post that will minister to her readers?

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Shut-Ins Mustn’t Be Shut Out

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ~~Romans 12:4-5 (NASB95)

Before I say anything else, let me be perfectly clear. If you are able to get in a car and go anywhere, you have no excuse for missing church. Attending a local church and actively serving as a member of that church is absolutely essential, and I’m by no means writing this article to suggest that you should stay home on Sunday mornings and “do” church by watching a live streamed service. For most Christians, physically being with the Body is a no-brainer.

That said, John and I have been unable to attend our wonderful church for almost three years because of various circumstances — most notably my back problems. I’m improving, and we hope the Sunday will come when we once again enter that building to worship the Lord with our cherished church family.

For now however, the Lord has graciously provided live streams of the Sunday morning service and the Wednesday night Bible Study. Additionally, one of the elders comes to our apartment on Friday mornings to teach Bible Study and occasionally give us the Lord’s Supper. The church administrator emails us the Sunday bulletin and the weekly Prayer Guide. In return, we stay faithful in our giving, praying daily for the church. As far as I can, I use this blog to represent our church, asking the elders to oversee it. Despite being shut-ins, therefore, John and I feel connected to our church.

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Sound Love Isn’t For The Faint Of Heart

More and more, evangelicals resist any correction of sin or exhortation to holiness, condemning such things as unloving. They’ve allowed the world to redefine love as unquestioning affirmation of sinful desires and behaviors, usually twisting Scripture to accommodate a weakened stance toward sin. Don’t believe me? Just try posting “Abortion is wrong” on social media and see how many professing Christians call you unloving and intolerant. Your head will spin!

Titus 2:2 encourages older men to be sound in doctrine, love and perseverance. The following verse indicates that God would have older women emulate these qualities, which gives me reason to discuss them in a blog designed specifically for women. Last week we talked about sound doctrine, so I want to now tum our attention to the idea of having soundness in love. I want to talk about this matter precisely because secular society exerts tremendous pressure on Christians to distort Biblical love into something that panders to the flesh. If soundness in love was important in First Century Crete, how much more important is it in 21st Century America?

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Can Childless Women Enjoy Mother’s Day?

She couldn’t face hearing the Mother’s Day sermon that year. Her doctors had confirmed a few months earlier that they had no treatment for her type of infertility. Adoption agencies insisted that her husband was too old for them to adopt. So she spent that Mother’s Day (and subsequent Mother’s Days) curled up in her bed, weeping over the children she’d never have.

She and her husband were, for many years, two of my closest friends, so I sympathized with their grief as they sympathized with my grief over being unmarried. I had avoided weddings in earlier years, so I well understood why Mother’s Day services would exacerbate her pain. Even now, I believe we should be patient and compassionate toward our sisters in Christ who struggle with infertility because I watched such a special friend suffer so deeply.

And I admit to having mixed feelings now, as many of my friends have become grandmothers. I get tempted toward jealousy when my sister talks about her adventures with her grandchildren. It’s strange, but I feel more upset about not being a granny than about not being a mom. Will someone explain that one to me?

The apostle Paul instructs us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). How often I wish that more Christians would obey that command, especially around their childless sisters on Mother’s Day. Many pastors preach on the glories of motherhood, which is good in our culture that demeans stay-at-home moms. But those sermons, while important, can make childless women feel like failures. Therefore, we must show sensitivity to them, especially on Mother’s Day!

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Teaching The (Usually) Easy Part

John, although he has his moments, is very easy to love. The thought of needing an older woman to teach me to cultivate affectionate feelings towards him amuses me, because those feelings come without much effort on my part. Hopefully most of my married readers can say the same thing about their husbands.

Sadly, many wives don’t have this sort of testimony. Sadder still, even Christian marriages can struggle, with wives experiencing difficulty maintaining affection for their husbands and children. We’ll get to reasons for such problems momentarily, but first we need to go back to Titus 1 for a look at the culture in Crete. Understanding the people Paul originally directed his instructions to gives us clarity on how his instructions apply to 21st Century Christian wives.

In Titus 1, Paul commissioned Titus to appoint elders across the island nation of Crete. These elders would need the ability to deal with troublemakers, whether those who taught false doctrine or those who lived in self-indulgence. Paul reminded Titus that the inhabitants of that island generally lived in flagrant rebellion against God’s laws.

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Don’t Tell Women How To Dress, They Say

Over a year ago, I tried to encourage a young Christian woman to dress modestly. You would have thought I’d counseled her to murder little children! All her friends wore their clothes that way, she reasoned, so who was I to tell her what to do? She was only following the fashion trends!

Fast-forward to Christian Twitter this past week, where a pastor bravely offered a man’s perspective on Christian women who dress provocatively. I’ve seen a lot of Christians vilified for standing on Biblical principles over the years, but never to this extent. According to his critics, he’s objectifying women while ignoring the responsibility men have to control their lustful thoughts. His critics ask what gives men the right to say when a hemline is too high, a neckline is too low or an outfit is too tight. They claim that, once again, men are oppressing women.

I have no problem agreeing that the Lord holds men responsible to control their thoughts. Jesus Christ certainly made that point abundantly clear:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (NASB95)

That statement doesn’t sound to me like He winks at the sin of men who look too long and savor their fantasies. He has no trouble saying that such secret sin deserves damnation. So please don’t read this piece and decide that I’m beating up on women while saying “boys will be boys.”

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Speaking The Truth (About False Teachers) In Love

Having said that we should major on studying Scripture rather than focusing on educating ourselves on every false teacher, I also recognize that sometimes Christians really need to speak out against those who distort the Word of God. Plenty of Bible verses instruct us to do just that. Take, for instance, Paul’s closing directive to the Roman church:

17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. ~~Romans 16:17-20 (NASB95)

Obviously, we can’t avoid false teachers and doctrinal error without some idea of who and what to avoid. As I said Friday, immersing ourselves in studying false teachers holds serious dangers, but totally ignoring them also violates Scripture. And when we find it necessary to speak out against those people and trends that undermine doctrinal purity, it helps to remember the importance of speaking the truth in love.

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You’re Convinced, But I’m Not

Twitter just amplifies a sad reality: Christians love to argue with each other.

Sometimes we argue about issues that actually matter. For instance, a sister in Christ may be reading supposed Bible Study material by a known false teacher, and you’ll need to give her evidence that she’s being exposed to error. Similarly, a friend might be engaging in sexual immorality, angrily resisting your attempts to lovingly correct her. Someone online may insist that the Bible was written merely by men, and therefore shouldn’t be regarded as God’s Word. In such clear-cut situations, arguing on behalf of Scripture becomes a necessity. Never shy away from arguing against obvious sin.

Alas, too often we misinterpret matters of personal conviction as commands from God that all Christians must embrace. We have our proof texts from the Bible to use as clubs to beat dissidents into submission. We assure ourselves that Scripture supports our position. If they disagree, they demonstrate ignorance at best, and outright rebellion most of the time. We firmly believe that (whether knowingly or unknowingly) those who don’t share our convictions disobey God’s commands. Therefore we argue, working tirelessly to force their repentance.

Scripture will have none of that. I want to look at Romans 14 as one example of respecting the personal convictions of Christians who don’t share our convictions.

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