Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
One of the problems people make for themselves in twisting Galatians out of shape is in 5:14, which tells us that obedience to the law of God is summed up "in one word": "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Aha, they say: "You must love yourself; you can't love anybody else unless first of all you love self." Then, when they think about that some more, some have ended up believing that "love of self is love of God." This has actually been accepted as righteousness by faith! Paul was an inspired apostle--what's the truth? Does he teach us to love self as the foundation of genuine Christian experience?
Clear-thinking people have wrestled with this problem for centuries. It doesn't take too much thought to recognize that the love of self is a very ugly thing, for it is the essence of all selfishness. When we see it in ourselves we usually like it but when we see it in others we are repulsed. Hundreds of years ago Martin Luther broke through the fog and saw what Paul meant. The law indeed is summed up "in one word": "Love your neighbor as you used to find it natural to love yourself."
From the first breath we ever drew it has been natural for all of us to love self. No baby cries because some other baby is hungry. Children are naturally self-centered. It's cute to see; but just let that "natural" self-centeredness grow undeterred, un-crucified, and what do you see? All the evil that curses this world.
What's the solution to this basic, totally universal problem? The previous verse: "By agape, serve one another"! This would be as impossible for us as jumping over the moon were it not that the Son of God was "made in the likeness of men." At the price of His cross He condemned this natural selfishness "in the flesh" (Rom 8:3), that it might be possible for us to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). Christ was agape in human flesh; none of us is born that way, but by faith we can become "partakers of the divine nature"--which is agape.
Thank the Lord for saving our souls!
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 22, 2000.
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