Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hating Your Flesh

My new friend Ali (here's a great post of hers) got me thinking. We were discussing a popular Christian book and its encouragement to the reader to accept themselves. One study question asks the reader, "What areas of my personality, background, and appearance do I need to accept?" that really an issue? Or is this book delivering a red herring?

Let's ask Paul. Here he is talking about husbands and wives, but what he's saying is applicable to this discussion:

Eph 5:28-30
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.

I know this goes against the beloved tenets of pop psychology, but I believe that no one really hates himself. I believe it because God says so.

No one ever hated his own flesh. He may be obsessed with himself, or he may be outright selfISH, but he doesn't really hate himself--even if it appears to the world that he does. Self-awareness and self-absorption are always players, whether the pattern is self-destructive or self-aggrandizing.

Don't get me wrong. I realize Paul is saying men should love and cherish their wives as part of themselves. But people constantly quote Eph 5 to justify a focus on self that I think is unwarranted from Scripture.

Here's something else to consider when Dr. Phil or Oprah give you tips on how to love yourself:

2 Tim 3:1-5
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.

Being a lover of self is actually a wicked characteristic. I know that in the times I struggle inwardly the most, I can see upon reflection that I have been focusing on myself rather than on the Lord. My eyes slip from Him and His Word, and look down on ME. As a result, my vision is skewed; I obsess over whatever good or bad points the enemy (or my own flesh) can direct me to. I forget--too easily--about the Lord, about the Blood of my Messiah, about forgiveness. The bottom line is that nothing is right again until my focus is on HIM and not MYSELF.

Hatred of self is a deception. The solution to self-obsession is to be renewed daily in Christ, and to regard one another as more important than ourselves.

Phil 2:1-4
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

We are to run the race to win. Does the athlete look at the ground the whole time, or at the finish line? This has everything to do with this discussion of selfishness vs. focusing on God. Notice the connection: it takes discipline and self-control to run the race to win. Love of self is one of the greatest weaknesses humans have that the enemy seeks to use against us. The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Gen 4:6-7).

1 Cor 9:24-27
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

To go back to the actual question posed in the book: what parts of myself do I need to "accept"? The answer is not in SELF-acceptance, but in losing yourself in Jesus Christ. Hide under His wings, look at Him. Seek His kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you. Don't eat that deceptive red herring. You can accept anything about yourself all day long, but it doesn't make the bottom-line problems and issues go away. A metric ton of acceptance will never amount to a thimbleful of the blood of Christ.