By Jake Kircher
A lot of time is spent in churches talking about the importance of serving others and giving of our time, talents and treasures. That message is often extra loud in the season we’ve just come through: amidst the Christmas season and celebrating the biggest gift ever given, many of us develop numerous ways for the teens we work with and their families to give of themselves.
Now, all of that is good…VERY good! We should be teaching teenagers to give and serve others. We should be helping people to consider others before themselves. However, the problem with this is that if we always give, and give, and give, and give, we will eventually find ourselves burnt out. No doubt, it’s a feeling that may have crept into your life this past month as church responsibilities increased to coincide with the Christmas season.
I have always found it very interesting to look at the greatest commandment as quoted by Jesus:
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself. (NLT)
That last word is one that often gets overlooked. Amidst the “love God, love others” reminder, we sometimes miss that fact that we are to love others in the same way that we love ourselves. So, what does this actually mean?
First, when you really get down to it, when we don’t love ourselves, our actions can quickly and easily become attempts to earn the love and affirmation we so desperately want from others. In other words, that act of service can sometimes be more about us than the other person. And when we’re empty and trying to be filled up, we’re really not giving much of anything to anyone.
Second, loving others as we love ourselves means that we are taking the time that we need in order to be filled up. Sometimes that means saying no to an opportunity to serve and give. Jesus is the perfect example here. A handful of times throughout the Gospels, Jesus stepped away from the healing and the teaching and the ministry in order to spend time in prayer and take time for himself. That’s not being selfish: it’s being smart and taking care of yourself so that you can in turn give more to others.
Finally, loving ourselves isn’t about what we have or can accomplish. Instead, it’s all about understanding our worth and value from the perspective of a Creator who gave up everything for us. That’s the heart of the season we just wrapped up; a God professing his immense love for us, not because of what we had done, but simply because of who we are. When we can fully understand that, we can have life “to the full” as expressed in John 10:10. The Greek term for “full” in that verse can be translated as overflowing; so full that it’s bubbling over the top. That is what it means to love ourselves; that we are so secure in our identity in Christ that we don’t need anything else but Jesus to fill us up.
And as you can see, when we can learn to fully love ourselves, we’ll have even more to authentically and lovingly give to others. As this New Year gets underway, take time to consider your own energy levels. Are you filled up, or empty?