Friday, September 05, 2014

Seeking Maturity Part 5: Loving Yourself

Yesterday I examined Micah's calling to God's people that we are to show love through Mercy, Justice, and Living Evangelism. It seems that, according to Micah, unless we get out and show other people a tangible, meaningful love through acts of mercy, justice, and living evangelism, our worship will be empty and meaningless.

John Wesley, when encountered by people passionate about growing mature in their love of God, formed then into groups to help grow one another. Wesley gave them three rules to live by:

avoid doing harm
do as much good as you can
be intentional about discovering God's love in as many ways as possible (most of the time with others)

These societies became the Methodist church. These rules are part of our basic DNA. At this present time, they are a recessive gene in many places. But we can recapture these essential traits. We can show love in these three ways through these three rules.
We love people around us by avoiding to cause them harm but also changing the systems that do harm
We love people by sharing with them when they are in need without love-less baggage
We love people by displaying the love of God that we have experienced that they might experience it themselves

Love Yourself
Jesus’ states that loving God and loving others is the framework that our life in him is built upon.
But loving yourself is instrumental in that framework:

Love God - with your heart, mind, body, soul
Love others - as you would love yourself
You have to show Godly love toward yourself

Paul speaks about how his life is torn between the spiritual pursuit of Christ and the necessary giving of himself to others. In living or dying, Christ has to be exalted in his entire life - body, mind, heart. In living each day there is a choice to conduct our lives in a way that is worthy of the Gospel

When we look at the statistics of how people care for themselves, something interesting is revealed. The members of churches are just as unhealthy in our choices of how we care for our lives as those not in  church.
In terms of Body we are just as obese, don't exercise, have heart disease and diabetes
In the realm of Mind we gossip, consume pornography, veg in front of television
In our Heart we experience depression, bitterness, lack of forgiveness
Our souls cannot grow and mature in spiritual pursuit of Christ if we feed it in these ways

Whole-Life Spiritual Care
Paul speaks many times on the weakness of the flesh. In the history of the church this led to dualism, or a sense of the body is bad and mind/spirit is good. But Paul had a healthy respect for the body. For example in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul stresses that we need to honor God with our bodies. Paul also focuses on the sexual nature of our bodies, but notice that he mentions food (13). These are both physical "needs" that tend to get overbalanced in our contemporary culture. Basically, Paul says the body is one way in which we honor God.

By not caring for our bodies, we limit our physical ability to honor God. Choosing to live a healthy life is an act of stewardship of the fundamental gift that God gives us. God gave us our bodies at birth and gives us the use of our bodies in salvation. God will also give us a resurrected body in the next life.

Paul also seems to know that the mind is controlled by what we allow into it. Philippians 4:4-8 seems to say put in what is good and gain peace of mind. Stop for a minute and think about how you exercise your mind.

What we allow ourselves to think about is how our mind is exercised.

Our culture is known for its junk food. But we are also famous for the mental junk we feed ourselves. If we want to have a healthy mind and live in true peace of mind, we have to control what we think about.

The seat of our emotions may move around, but our emotions lead us around. We tend to center emotions in the heart. The Bible doesn’t refer to the heart like we do.The heart is the source of motives or intentions as well as feelings. Emotions are given by God. They are not evil or weak by their own nature. But emotions are corrupted by sin just as our body and minds are.

What we allow our hearts to dwell on determines how healthy our heart will be
If we focus on the hurts or wrongs that people have done against us, bitterness and anger will develop
If we focus on our own worthlessness or failings, depression will develop
If we focus on our inabilities or insecurities, apathy will develop

Our heart also prepares us for action. What we feel will, usually, lead to a motive that will lead us to an action. If we develop a different heart focus, our actions will go in a different direction. And then our life will go in a different direction. In Galatians 5:16-26 there is a list of healthy emotions that we can pursue. Essentially, our unhealthy “passions” do not have to control our emotional life, which in turn will produce a life of actions.

Our soul is fed by heart, mind, and body. It is hard to separate the soul of the Bible from our understanding of soul. It is easiest to say that the soul is our identity - the essential element of who we are. But it is shaped by how we live, the choices we make, the feelings and passions we dwell upon. 

Our spirit and soul are linked to make relationship with God possible. But our spirit communicates only  what our soul has been focused upon. If we pursue corrupted passions, dwell on the thoughts that are destructive, or treat our bodies with contempt, then our spirit communicates sin. If we pursue healthy emotions, nurture thoughts that conform our minds to God, and live in our bodies as stewards, our spirit communicates righteousness.

Our lives are not just daily calendars with objectives to be met. Our lives are the complex interaction of heart, mind, body, and soul. The choices we make, the passions we pursue, the feelings we harbor, the thoughts upon which we dwell, the information we take in all shape our souls, our identity. As we live out a healthy existence in heart, mind, body, and soul, we are loving our whole self. As we love our self, we are better able to love God and love others