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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, February 22 2024

The dangerous love

The inordinate love of self is known as narcissism. 2 Timothy 3:2 warns that in the end time men will be "lovers of themselves", prophesying of a subtle yet profound change in society. This approach to life has manifested itself in our values, culture and families, and is even increasingly taught in schools and churches.

It is important to note we are to appropriately love ourselves, recognizing the worth and potential God has given to each of us. However, it is not this normal love of self Paul warned about, but narcissism, which is an extreme love of self. The word comes from a mythical Greek youth called Narcissus, who pined away for love of his own reflection.

Love of self has roots going back to the Garden of Eden, and our modern, western society encourages us to become more and more self-centered. The 1960s was a time when a whole generation was taught to discard stuffy old values prohibiting selfish behaviors, and to "do your own thing." George F. Will, in his article "About That Sixties Idealism" (Newsweek, Aug. 21, 1995) said: "The Spirit of the Sixties was, strictly speaking, infantile. For an infant, any appetite is self-legitimizing."

The 1970s generation, often referred to as the "Me Generation," exhibited even more of this self-centered attitude. Our society now faces serious consequences because of this change, which began subtly at first, then grew into an all-pervasive sea change, manifesting itself in rude behavior, loss of civility, violent crimes and family breakdowns— to mention just a few of the negative effects.

Irving O. Hockaday, on accepting the Lawrence A. Wein Prize, said: "....while we revere individualism, we are in danger of forgetting that a civil society survives only as long as individuals are subject to moral imperatives that transcend narcissism and ego-centrism" (quoted in Wall Street Journal, April 25, 1995). When we can't honestly view ourselves, how can we care for others, fulfill obligations and uphold the principles that hold a society together?

Maureen Dowd warned we live in a society "where loyalty to self yields to no other loyalty" (New York Times, Nov. 14, 1996). Self-absorbed people not only are totally oblivious to the noble concept of loyalty, they can't understand that civilization rests on people putting limits on themselves for the greater good of society.

Andrew Peyton Thomas stated in his Aug. 29, 1995, article in the Wall Street Journal, "Can We Ever Go Back?" that: " Civilization was created to constrain egoism. When a society decides that its individual members should live for themselves, maximizing their own wealth and pleasures at the expense of even their children, then such a society must expect all manner of unkind circumstances."

The Apostle Paul was far ahead of his time, when he warned of the behavior and culture that would exist in the end times.The entire message of Jesus Christ is one of serving and righteousness. How can we fulfill Christ's admonition in Mark 8:34 to deny self or love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), or "lay down" our lives for our friends (John 15:13), if we become excessively self-absorbed?

Christians aren't to have colossal egos. We are to esteem others higher than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). It’s hard to remain small in our own sight or see the need to serve others when a powerful argument all around us tells us how "important," "unique" and "special" we are.

The ultimate answer and defense of this societal trend is to examine and purify our own motives. Our modern societies train us in a very wrong and dangerous way of thinking that the Apostles warned about. In the Bible God tells us how to rightly love ourselves. We are taught not only the right motive and thinking, but practical methods to care for others and set a right example.