Sunday, November 09, 2008

Deconstruct Self-Love to Construct a Cross

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” To take up the cross everyday one must deny the self. This means, among other things, that self-love and cross-carrying don’t go together. Deconstruct the self in order to construct a cross and carry it.

This is a profound thing because the self-love issue goes very deep. Self-love, writes Thomas Merton, "is the source of all boredom and all restlessness and all unquiet and all misery and all unhappiness - ultimately, it is hell."[1] How much easier is it to love the self before loving others and living sacrificially in relationship to them. One British politician's actions were once described as "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his friends for his life."[2] I discover in my heart a deep-rooted propensity to love “me” as my first priority. But I want to follow Jesus, so I see the “love me” thing must be rejected.

As a young Christian I was counseled to keep my priorities as follows:
a. Love God first
b. Love others second
c. Love self
I have found that when I live in this way the love I have for myself is healthy and godly. This love of self is also called pride. C.S. Lewis called pride “the great sin – the complete anti-god mentality.” Put simply, it’s impossible to love God with all one’s being if one has such an elevated love of self. Francis Frangipane refers to pride as “the armor of darkness.”[3] I like this definition of pride because is shows how this kind of self-love necessarily thwarts spiritual renewal and transformation. And, as Merton said, while all this seems counterintuitive to the proud lover of self, in reality it’s all boredom and misery.

1 – Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe
[2] Eddie Askew, No Strange Land, p. 20
[3] Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds