Today’s daily reading from Richard Rohr is another classic. It looks at the question of why Jesus commands us to love and tells us to look beyond ourselves for our own good. Here is some more of what Rohr says:
We must learn to move beyond ourselves, to set limits on our own needs and somehow to meet other peoples’ needs. We actually need to do this for our own good! That’s why Jesus commanded us to love—to get us started. So love is not a feeling, but a decision, yet a decision that increases our inner freedom each time we do it. You will know this only after you act on love.
Jesus didn’t say when you get healed, love; when you grow up, love; when you get it together and have dealt with all your wounds, then love. No, the commandment for all of us is quite simply, “Love!” Once we know it is not a feeling, but a grace empowered decision, we can all do it. And each time it is a growth in freedom—and flow.
As I read this I thought of the issue of how many many Christians, including Christian counselors, bring across the unbiblical message that you cannot love others until you love yourself. I wrote about this in an article a couple of years ago. The point that Rohr makes and which I didn’t make in my article, is that love is a grace-empowered decision. We are only able to love because of God working in us. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Those Christians who say you can’t love others until you love yourself take grace out of the equation, take God out of the equation by assuming that love has to be done in our power and that we need to get ourselves together before we are able to love others. I believe this is such a serious issue in the Christian church as to be a heresy. As I read elsewhere recently, the gospel of Jesus is about self-denial, not self-fulfillment. The Way of Jesus is only by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following him.