Chapter Four


A week ago Friday Joyce and I had the joy of visiting with Nell and Stan Brook in Sheffield, Alabama. Nell and Stan Brook took care of us just before our departures to West Africa and immediately after our returns. In an exceptional way, they took care of our needs. They continue to be involved, active members of the congregation that oversaw our work while we were in West Africa. Stan now serves as one of the elders of that congregation.

They visited that work in West Africa in July and wanted us to come see them so they could share the experience with us. While in Cameroun, both of them taught non-stop. Nell shared some of the lessons she taught the African ladies. One of the lessons she taught was on the importance of self-esteem, the importance of liking yourself. She taught the lesson in a very interesting way--by using what Jesus declared to be the second greatest commandment: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:39). She effectively made the point that a person cannot love his neighbor until first he/she learns to love himself/herself.

This morning I want you to think with me about the urgency and the necessity of a Christian learning to love himself/herself in the God-intended, appropriate manner.

  1. In the mid and late 1970's people in the churches of Christ began to discover the importance and the power of healthy self-esteem made possible in Christ.
    1. The enormous harm created by a lack of proper self-esteem became a documented fact.
      1. We began developing materials and using classes to correct what had been a significant oversight.
      2. Here in this congregation about that time we began teaching Adventures in Christian Living classes with excellent results.
      3. Those classes resulted in many wonderful things happening in the lives of individual members and in this congregation as a body.
    2. Unfortunately as it seems always is the case, there were those who began giving self-esteem as exaggerated importance in the gospel and the message of Christ.
      1. Some began declaring that God's basic objective in our lives was to make us feel good about ourselves, and making us feel good about ourselves was Jesus' primary work in the life of the Christian.
      2. Some began trying to compensate for our past neglect of Christian self-esteem by teaching and stressing almost exclusively the importance of self-esteem.
      3. When that occurred, another predictable thing happened.
        1. Others began opposing the teaching of self-esteem as a part of the gospel message.
        2. In the 80's any emphasis on self-esteem was considered by many as being unbiblical and a failure to teach the word.
  2. Proper self-esteem is a very Biblical teaching, and it is a desperately needed teaching among Christians.
    1. First, let's answer the inevitable question which has always been used to try and escape the responsibility of loving my neighbor as myself: Who is my neighbor?
      1. Remember that in Luke 10:25-37 that an expert in Jewish law tried to trap and discredit Jesus by asking Jesus what one must do to inherit eternal life.
      2. Jesus declared the man was the expert in Mosaical law and asked him to answer his own question.
        1. He replied that one was to love God with all his being, and to love one's neighbor as himself.
        2. Jesus replied that his answer was correct, and that if he did that he would have that life.
      3. The man, seeking to evade the responsibility to love his neighbor as himself, then asked, "Who is my neighbor?"
      4. Jesus then gave the parable of the good Samaritan and powerfully proved that one's neighbor was his fellowman.
        1. To love my neighbor means that I love the people all around me.
        2. It means I do good to my fellowman whoever he may be wherever he may be.
    2. Having let Jesus answer that question, let's make some important observations.
      1. Observation #1: The Mosaical law and Jesus did not say, "Love your neighbor."
        1. The law and Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
        2. I am to understand the quality of love and the attitude of love which I am to hold for my fellowman by the quality of love and the attitude of love I have for myself.
        3. I am to respect my fellowman as I respect myself.
        4. I am to treat my fellowman with the dignity I hold for myself.
        5. I am to have the same quality of concern for my fellowman that I have for myself.
      2. Observation #2: This is true of far too many Christians: If they love their neighbor as they love themselves, that neighbor is in big trouble!
        1. Our society has an enormous group of very angry people whose dislike of self runs deep!
        2. There is a large group of Christians within the church who hold an intense anger deep within and in that anger do not like themselves.
        3. Self-contempt is a common, real, destructive problem in our society and in the church.
        4. My personal experience in working with people leads me to believe that there are as many people who despise themselves as there are who respect themselves.
        5. The foundation of self-esteem is self-respect.
        6. If people who hold themselves in contempt treat their fellowman with the contempt they hold for themselves, their fellowman has a major problem.
        7. If Christians who hold themselves in self-contempt treat their brothers and sisters in the Lord with that contempt, the church has a major problem.
        8. Unfortunately, that is what happens: When any person holds himself/herself in contempt, he/she will feel and express contempt for other people.
    3. There is still another dimension to this problem reflected in Scripture.
      1. Paul made this statement to the Ephesian Christians: Even so ought husbands to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself... (Ephesians 5:28)
      2. The kind of love that a husband is to have for his wife is exemplified by the love that he has for himself.
        1. Marriage relationships in the first century world were quite different to marriage relationships in much of America.
          1. The wife had virtually no rights.
          2. In many instances she held a position that was little more than chief servant of the household.
          3. It was not uncommon for a wife to be viewed more as a possession than as a person.
        2. Love of God understood in the love of Christ would change the nature of the love of all human relationships.
          1. That absolutely included the marriage relationship.
          2. Any husband converted to Christ would through conversion learn a new kind of love for his wife.
          3. He would learn to have the kind of respect, appreciation, and love that he had for his own physical being.
      3. Today, in many instances, if a husband loves his wife as he loves himself, his wife is in trouble.
        1. The number of men who inwardly hold themselves in contempt is astounding.
        2. These men are inwardly angry men.
          1. The anger may be repressed.
          2. They may go to great lengths to conceal the expressions of their anger.
          3. They may give the outward public appearance of being the epitome of the controlled person.
        3. Yet, inwardly they dislike themselves and hold themselves in contempt.
      4. That is a major reason for the deep marital distress experienced in some marriages.
        1. A man who cannot within his own mind and heart view his own life with a healthy sense of respect and affection is incapable of treating his wife with respect and appreciation.
        2. In the church there are too many marriages that are just existing, just surviving because the husband treats his wife in the same manner that he feels about himself.
        3. There are too many marriages that end in complete failure because the wife cannot endure the contempt that the husband feels for himself.
      5. Today, in this age, in our society the very same thing is true in regard to the wife.
        1. There are so many women who hold themselves in contempt, who despise themselves.
        2. They also are very angry people.
        3. They often go to great lengths to conceal their anger, many times even refusing to admit it to themselves.
        4. In public they may look like a person always under control, but in their inner life the anger rages and the self-contempt know few bounds.
      6. This also is a major reason for dire martial stress in many marriages.
        1. A woman who is inwardly angry, who has little or no respect and affection for herself cannot treat her husband with respect and appreciation.
        2. Again, in the church, there are too many marriages just existing, merely surviving because the wife treats her husband in the same manner she feels about herself.
        3. There are too many marriages which completely fail because the husband cannot endure the contempt the wife feels toward herself.
  3. Where is all this dislike of self, this self-contempt, this controlling inner anger coming from? What is the reason for so many men and women being unable to have a healthy sense of respect and affection for self? There is not a source, but many sources.
    1. One enormous source is abuse one suffered when he/she was a child.
      1. Child abuse in the American society is too extensive to be exaggerated.
        1. Literally, the problem is so common place, so extensive, and so offensive that as a society we really do not wish to acknowledge it.
        2. It is extensive among every race, among every social and economic level, and every section of our society.
        3. It is extensive among all families of all ethnic groups, among upper middle class and rich as well among the poor, among the educated as well as among the uneducated.
      2. When a child is subjected to abuse whether it be sexual abuse, physical abuse, or psychological abuse, the common place result is this:
        1. An enormous sense of personal guilt
        2. An intense repressed anger.
        3. An extreme dislike of self.
      3. When that child becomes a man or woman, he or she commonly becomes an angry adult filled with guilt who truly holds himself/herself in contempt for what happened in the past.
    2. Another enormous source of self-contempt is spouse abuse.
      1. Last month a recent study reported the following fact: In America, the most common source of injury suffered by adult women in America is spouse abuse--more physical injuries are suffered by woman at the hands of their husbands than are produced by any other single cause.
      2. May I quickly add that there is a significant number of men in our society who are victims of terrible spouse abuse.
        1. I recently heard a man interviewed whose life had been destroyed by his wife's physical abuse declaring that there are no books, no centers, and no forms of help designed for men who are suffering abuse as husbands.
        2. One of my earliest childhood memories is of a neighbor, a man, running for refuge to our house because his wife was attacking him with a large fork.
      3. Such abuse fills the person with anger and self-contempt.
    3. Another enormous cause of such self-contempt is rape.
      1. There is so much rape which occurs in our society that, again, you cannot exaggerate the problem.
      2. The victims of rape feel such a sense of shame, embarrassment, and humiliation coupled with the fear that no one will believe them that the majority never report the rape.
      3. Rape is so common place on the campuses of this nation that within the last week research announced that 1 in 6 women attending a college/university would be the victim of rape.
      4. The contexts in which rape occurs are many:
        1. Date rape.
        2. Acquaintance/friend rape.
        3. Employer rape.
        4. Stranger rape.
      5. Even in this area we have become a very accomplished society in our evils--for the rape of men is also a significant problem.
    4. Another great cause of such self-contempt is failure.
      1. Our society is obsessed with what we define as success.
      2. No matter what you do in this society, you must win, you much excel, you must be the best, and if you are not the best, you have failed.
        1. At all levels, when our children play sports or enter any other form of competition, we teach them that they must win.
        2. When we educate our children, they must excel.
        3. When we get our jobs and careers, we must be at the top.
        4. From childhood we are taught that success is everything, and that not being the best is failure.
      3. We have created the perfect system to fill most of our citizens with a sense of failure.
      4. When any person feels that he has failed in a manner which he cannot, the result is self-contempt.
    5. Perhaps the greatest source of self-contempt is personal guilt.
      1. When we are inwardly forced to accept the responsibility of our mistakes, the result is self-contempt.
      2. We all have made mistakes that powerfully attack our self respect.
      3. We all have many, many things for which to find just guiltiness.
      4. When we are unable to resolve the burden of guilt, the result is self-contempt.
  4. Someone says, "What you are talking about is an impossible problem. What has happened in the past has happened. Nothing can change those things."
    1. "If a person is suffering from deep repressed anger and is filled with resentments and contempt directed at self because of something that happened to them in the past, they are just locked in an impossible problem."
      1. "What one feels he feels."
      2. "If what he/she feels toward his/her fellowman or his/her spouse is that which flows from his/her feelings for self, then there is just going to be a lot of misery and suffering."
    2. If we as Christians come to that conclusion, then we have completely failed to understand the gospel.
      1. Those feelings of self-contempt, that anger, that resentment and all the guilt associated with it is what the good news of Jesus is designed to destroy.
      2. The core message of the gospel is this:
        1. In Christ God has the power to destroy all the guilt with perfect, unconditional forgiveness.
        2. In Christ God has the power to make you his new creation which kills the past and makes it a dead issue.
        3. In Christ God has the power not only to cleanse the conscience but to give you a whole new, enduring reason for self-respect.
        4. In Christ God has the power to enable you to turn loose of the anger and learn to live in peace with yourself.
      3. That is power made available in the blood of Jesus.
        1. That is the power and effect of justification.
        2. That is what happens when God himself sanctifies us in the blood of his son.
        3. That is what God accomplishes in our lives when he redeems us by the blood.
      4. The point is this: When we are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, God destroys all our sin and transforms us from sinner into his own son or daughter.
        1. If God forgives us, then we must forgive ourselves.
        2. If God looks at us as though the past never happened, then we must turn loose of the past.
        3. If God is at peace with us, then we must feel at peace with God and ourselves.
        4. If God has destroyed the guilt, then we must turn loose of the guilt.
    3. If you enter Christ, if you accept the atoning blood, if you accept reconciliation to God through the cross, then God does not care what happened in your past.
      1. His love is so complete, so unconditional, so constant that:
        1. The abuse you experienced does not matter to him.
        2. The rape you suffered does not matter to him.
        3. The failure you experienced does not matter to him.
        4. The burden of guilt you carried no longer exists--- he destroyed it with his forgiveness.
      2. He accepts you completely, unconditionally, with the fullness of his love.
        1. If you enter Christ, you are his own child.
        2. He accepts you as you are, loves you for you, and begins teaching you an entirely different existence.
        3. He does not give you some new rules to follow; he gives you a new life.
      3. That is a fact! That is exactly what Paul was talking about when he declared in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19:
        "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them."
    4. Consider carefully just a moment: Why did you obey the gospel? Why were you baptized into Christ?
      1. Because of the guilt, the pain, the shame, and the anger created by your past life in sin, you could not love and respect that old self.
      2. You entered Christ to allow God to create a new self, and to accept the responsibility of learning to live like the new you.
      3. If you are in Christ, you can love the new self because of what God has done for you in Christ.
      4. It is loving God for creating that new self through his grace which enables you to love your fellowman and love your spouse.
      5. In Christ you have a new identity, a new self-respect, and new reasons for loving yourself.

As a Christian, you do not like self because of how great you are, because of your wonderful achievements, or because of your marvelous goodness. If that is the basis of your self-respect and affection, you have a real problem with arrogance and self-righteousness.

A Christian likes and respects himself because of Christ, because of divine forgiveness, and because of the unconditional love of God.

Self-esteem built on personal accomplishments is the road to arrogance. Self-esteem built on the grace of divine forgiveness is the road to love founded on unselfishness and humility.

If you are going to obey God by loving your fellowman as you love yourself, and by loving your spouse as you love yourself, the first thing you must do is to learn to love yourself. If you are going to love yourself, you must place your faith, your confidence in God's grace. You must in faith accept everything God promised to do for you in the blood of Jesus.

transcribed by Christy Hesslen
Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
Chapter Three Chapter Five
table of contents

 Link to a summary of other books by David Chadwell

 Link to   David Chadwell Home Page

Exalting Christ is copyrighted material. Everyone is granted permission to download any or all of the text. Permission is granted to duplicate the material for class studies or small group studies. Permission is granted to duplicate the material to share with others. Permission is not granted to use this material for profit. The specific purpose of placing the book's full text on this Web site is to make the material available to as many people as possible at no cost.
If you read this book, would you e-mail me at stating that you read it? If you share it or use it in a class situation, would you e-mail me and inform me about the use you made of the material? If enough people read the book or make use of the book through Internet access, we will place the full text of other books that I have written on our Web site.
David Chadwell