Why is it impossible for self-love to be the foundation of genuine Evangelical spirituality?
4a. For Edwards there is no room for self-love in the believer as foundational. John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” God is the mover the first initiator to regenerate a man and therefore once a man sees the awesomeness, majesty, beauty, and holiness of God he should be captivated by it apart from its personal benefits. To see God as He really is should produce holy fear and humiliation in a believer’s heart thus seeing himself as he really is compared to the glories of God. Edwards, referring to John 4:19 gives three points to its support. (1) The saints’ love to God, is the fruit of God’s love to them; as it is the gift of that love. God gave them a spirit of love to him, because he loved them from eternity. (2) The exercises and discoveries that God has made of his wonderful love to sinful men, by Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption, is one of the chief manifestations, which God has made of the glory of his moral perfection, to both angels and men. (3) God’s love to a particular elect person, discovered by his conversion, is a great manifestation of God’s moral perfection and glory to him, and a proper occasion of the excitation of the love of holy gratitude… arising primarily form the excellency of divine things, as they are in themselves, and not from any conceived relation they bear to their interest.”
Is Edwards refusing to allow any place for self-love in our love to God?
4b. Edwards does allow a place for self-love but it is not anywhere as foundational to man’s authentic affection for God’s glory and beauty. This reality is touched by man’s self-love as explained in Psalm 116:1, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication.” God first loves man and by this love man is changed and now loves God for who He is and because of this has godly gratitude for the personal benefits he receives from this great divine love.
For the followers of Christ to effectively obey the Great Commission to preach the gospel into all the world and make disciples of all the nations, it is indispensable, indeed, for an urban Christian mission agent to have a cross-cultural, multilingual mindset.
We already mentioned in the first part of this discussion two of the four habits of the mind that a cross-cultural urban Christian mission agent should develop, namely:
A passionate love for the Triune God and a strong love for people. (Matt 22:36-40)
A healthy self-love and self-esteem in Christ. (Rom. 12:1-3)
Equally important with the first two traits, the next two are a must have as well.
An attitude of lifelong learning and open-mindedness is an essential attribute of a fruitful urban mission agent of change.
As a lifelong learner, he continues to develop and expand his competencies in evangelizing, establishing and equipping of the saints and re-think these ministry skills from a different cross-cultural perspective. He will learn the biblical and contextualized ways of ministering to men, women and children of different cultural backgrounds.
When the urban discipler is humble, teachable and open-minded, he’ll do everything in his power to be diligent in learning the language and studying the cultural milieu of his target ethnic groups. He will learn of their ways of thinking, communicating and doing things. In fact, he, with an open mind and a learner’s heart, can learn a lot of life lessons from these international immigrants whom he seeks to reach out and minister.
A teacher-developer-capacity builder mindset is absolutely necessary for an urban Christian ‘missionary’ to be effective in reaching the metropolitan dwellers of different socio-economic, educational, cultural, work and family backgrounds.
For the urban missionary to be able to effectively evangelize, establish and equip people, he should have the creative ability to do and teach the Scriptures from the spiritual milk of the very basic presentation of the Gospel of Christ to the more spiritual solid food of the reign of the Triune God through all eternity (Heb. 5:12; 1 Cor. 3:2).
It is only through the Spirit-empowered teaching and learning of the Word of God can lives be truly transformed. Besides the knack of teaching one-on-one, small group or a large crowd, the urban Christian worker should be passionate in developing disciplers, training disciplemakers and raising leaders from among the people of his target international ethnic groups. (2 Timothy 2:2)
Indeed, there could be more of the important traits and mindsets needed for urban Christian workers, disciplers and lay leaders to have. But anyone can’t do without these four essentials.
Four Essential Traits of a Cross-Cultural Urban Christian Mission Agent (p1)
In times past, foreign mission agencies made the acquisition of cross-cultural skills an absolute requirement for their missionary candidates to possess before sending them out to the ends of the earth. In today’s modernized and highly urbanized world where 54% of the 7 billion people on earth live in cities, the importance for an urban Christian mission worker to have a cross-cultural mindset can’t be overemphasized. The multilingual, multicultural harvest field is right here in the cities! This is why it is imperative for urban Christian workers to acquire the necessary cross-cultural traits.
In North America and Western Europe, for instance, immigrants from more than 100 countries and speaking more than a hundred languages settle in the huge cities of these hemispheres. The harvest field is just right next door. For the followers of Christ to effectively obey the Great Commission to preach the gospel into all the world and make disciples of all the nations, it is indispensable, indeed, for an urban Christian mission agent to have a cross-cultural, multilingual mindset.
Here are four habits of the mind that cross-cultural urban Christian mission agents should develop to be effective and fruitful in the ministry that God has called them to do:
A passionate love for the Triune God and a strong love for people should be the urban Christian mission agent’s most compelling motivation for engaging in the tasks of evangelizing the nations and discipling and equipping the saints. (See: Matthew 22:36-40; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
The urban Christian mission agent should be growing in his love for the Triune God – enjoying the practice of the presence of the Father, immersed in the sacrificial love of the Son and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Without this compelling love divine in one’s heart, loving people can truly be an uphill climb. Urbanites, in particular, who are stressed out and emotionally strained due to city living, can sometimes be really annoying and irritating. This requires a high level of tolerance for any cross-cultural worker to have.
Related with the first trait, a healthy self-love and self-esteem in Christ is an essential habit of the mind that urban Christian missional agents should hold.
An accurate valuation and acceptance of one’s person enables the urban Christian workers to be free from harmful attitudes of ethnocentrism. It liberates them from criticizing the idiosyncrasies of other ethnic groups or lambasting and judging other cultures according to their own cultural ethos.
A healthy self-love and self-acceptance empowers the urban Christian trainers and disciplemakers to pursue authentic relationships with those who are not culturally or linguistically like them. This mindset helps them raise their own intercultural awareness and cultural sensitivity as they interact and serve these international immigrants.
For a fruitful life and ministry in their sphere of influence and outreach, it is imperative for the urban Christian workers, disciplers and lay leaders to be growing strong and deep in their love for God, for people and for themselves.
This video by John Piper is a brief exposition of Isaiah 48:9-11 that unpacks the biblical weight given to God’s name and honor. Here is one of the most important texts in the Bible highlighting an honor/shame paradigm: