Now, I realize that the context of this verse is a teaching on marriage. However, I believe there is a nugget of truth here that we usually miss. Holy Spirit is speaking instructively about the approach He desires us to have towards our own bodies. By extension, this is also the posture He longs for us to adopt towards our entire being: body, soul, and spirit.
With His use of the wording “no man ever hated his own flesh,” He is employing a literary expression. God, who knows all things, certainly is aware of the expansive population of individuals who actually do hate their bodies. In His deep love for us and yearning for our wellbeing, He is profoundly grieved by this. His statement here is not in denial of reality, but rather to emphasize how tragic and harmful self-hatred is. His intent is to urgently beckon us up into a higher way.
Notice that Holy Spirit mentions this concept of self-cherishing here in passing, as an assumption upon which He builds His instructions for marriage. This is fundamental, foundational truth. A man must cherish himself in order to be able to genuinely, fully cherish his wife.
This principle applies in all of our human relationships. We will not be able to enter into the fullness of the cherishing experience until we have allowed Jesus to cherish our very own selves at the core level. We will not be able to extend to others the most authentic expression of Christ’s agape love until we have truly learned to receive it from Him first. “Freely you have received; freely give” only works when we first learn to receive. This will require intentionally, decisively turning our backs on self-deprecation and surrendering to His Niagara Falls waterfall of love.
One of the most vital treasures God has given you to steward, is yourself. As we can see in today’s verse, He asks you to:
- Nourish yourself. Taking tender care of your body, soul, and spirit is not selfishness. It’s stewardship. It’s obedience, even. No one human being on this planet is called to nourish all three parts of your being… more than you are. Just like you pick up the fork and bring the food to your mouth, pick up the activity that nourishes your emotions, and bring it to yourself too. And most especially, nourish your spirit. Make time with God every day a non-negotiable.
- Carefully protect yourself. Yes, He is calling upon you to value yourself enough that you zealously protect your inner and outer being from harm. Protect your body; use sunscreen and take care of your health. Protect your soul; do not settle for toxic relationships. Protect your spirit; avoid the poison being broadcast from so many tv and radio programs. View yourself as a haven for God’s Spirit that deserves the utmost quality care.
- Cherish yourself. You are a breathtaking masterpiece made by the hands of God Himself. There is no one else like you, not now, not ever before in history, and not ever again. To Jesus, you are worth every last drop of His blood. You are exceedingly precious. Let Him sink this revelation deeper and deeper into your spirit, and live out of it. His immeasurable, furious love for you is what makes you who you are. Treat yourself as someone worthy of the Lamb’s very life, given in sacrifice for you. Your name is written on His hand and inscribed indelibly onto His heart.
Do you desire to live in full obedience to Jesus? As a Christian, you are not allowed to love yourself less than He does. Do not despise your body, your personality, your intellect, your particular set of abilities, or anything else about you. Rather, nourish, protect, and cherish your entire being… just like Christ does the church.
Learning to cherish yourself requires a commitment to this specific area of growth. For those of you who have embarked on this journey, do you have any pointers to share, from your own process, that have helped you come to nourish and treasure yourself more?