Sunday—This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Refresh: Begin today in prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Matthew 22:37 in the English Standard Version (ESV) As you read through this brief exchange, note 1-3 insights which have been taught to you about this verse in the past and which you still hold to be true.
Reflect: David Foster Wallace, in his commencement speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College, remarked, “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence.” Wallace later goes on to say that this type of thinking—that we so automatically cling to—is an example of a thought process that is utterly wrong. Instead, we should strive to do as C.S. Lewis teaches. He notes that “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it's thinking of yourself less.”
At a first reading of Matthew 22, it sounds like Jesus is telling us to put others before ourselves, but the tiny word “as” in this command must be analyzed before applying any meaning to the teaching. What if the way I love myself is to be devastatingly self-critical in my thoughts, to physically flog myself when I fail to live justly by my own standards, and to be emotionally abusive when dealing with my own shortcomings? If this is how I have shown myself love, if this is how love was modeled to me by those who loved me in my upbringing, does this mean that this should be the kind of love I show to my neighbor? What would the world look like if we used our definition of self-love as the rubric by which we treated the world? Would we be better off or not?
I submit that there is a way to look at all three theories (Wallace, Lewis, and Christ) and lay them out in harmony. While Lewis says that true humility means we should think of ourselves less, he most certainly is not saying that we should not think of ourselves at all. In the same way, Wallace says that making ourselves the center of the universe is socially repugnant, but he is not saying that we should not be aware of our place in the world. Jesus says that we must love our neighbor in the way that we love ourselves, but He is not saying that we shouldn't love ourselves at all while loving our neighbors.
If boiled down to its lowest (social) common denominator, the instruction might look something like this: If you are to share the Gospel well, learn to love yourself well.
Recalibrate: What’s keeping the reality of how you love yourself and how God loves you from merging in your heart, in your soul, and in your mind?
Respond: Pray for God to reveal to you how He loves you today.
Research: Read through 1 Corinthians 13 today as Paul diagrams what love is, and confront how your life and these verses overlap noting places where they coexist and places where they counteract.
Live Wonder (ages 0–3)
In what ways do you show your child love? Ask them what they think the word love means and share with them what you think love means.
Live Adventure (ages 4–11)
Take the Five Love Languages test for kids. Work through what each one means with your child and ask them if they think the test was right.
Live Purpose (ages 12–16)
Take the Five Love Languages test for teens. Before you take it write down in order what you think your love languages are. Did the test tell you what you already knew or did you learn something about yourself?