“You should really stop hating yourself so much.”
“You’re just going to end up committing suicide because of your self-loathing.”
“Why would you dishonor God by hating who He made you to be?”
These are a few of the most popular comments I read (and hear) from non-Christians in regard to the life that I, and thousands upon thousands of others, live. They look at our repentance and can not begin to fathom how what we are doing could be anything less than hating ourselves. My knee-jerk internal response is usually, “Trust me, I don’t hate myself. If anything, I love myself too much!”…. but there’s some truth to what they’re saying. In a very real sense, I do hate myself. In a very real sense, every Christian hates himself/herself.
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”- John 12:25
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”- Luke 9:23-24
The call of Jesus to the world is not one of, “Come to me and I will give you prosperity, health, wealth, romantic fulfillment…. your best life now!”—the call of Jesus to the world is a call for us to come and die. To die to ourselves (our flesh), to die to the ways of this world, to die to sin. So in this sense, the Christian that is living in obedience to this call is living a life of self hatred(i.e. denial). But…. it doesn’t end there. The call of Christ to come and die is not merely for the sake of coming and dying. It’s for the sake of truly living. When, by faith and the power of the Spirit, we trust in Christ and put to death the deeds of the body, we then truly live (Romans 8:13). And as Jesus points out in verse 25 of Luke 9—there is actually no profit in not hating/denying your flesh… “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”.
So really, when it comes down to it, the Christian hates himself…. his flesh, his inclinations to the ways of this world, his sin….because he loves himself. The Christian has had his eyes opened to see that true reward awaits those who who turn away from the ways of this world and follow Christ. He sees that there is lasting profit in hating his life (John 12:25). He is actually doing what is in his own best interest… losing his life in this world to gain eternal life, joy and pleasure both now and (in completeness and fullness) in the world to come.
So in one sense, I do hate myself. But by hating myself, in reality, I am doing the most loving thing for myself. I deny my flesh and set my mind on the Spirit because there is more joy for me in doing that than there is in me not doing that. I pick up my cross and follow Jesus because I know that while even though this narrow path will surely involve suffering and sacrifice, the end destination is fullness of joy and life forever.
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him..”- Phillipians 3:8-9