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When Selfish Love is Good

Selfish love is good when it is in the joy of loving others

Selfish love is good when it is in the joy of loving others

Published on: Feb 8, 2009

Valentines is a week away. So I think it is appropriate to talk about love. In the world there is a selfish love, which is the basis of most love experienced. This selfish love has the motive of “what do I get out of this relationship?” The focus is on receiving, not giving.

In contrast the agape love of God is one of giving. This is usually considered a good love for there is no expectation of return. But anyone who has given this kind of love knows that it is not truly selfless.

My wife and I have no children. The impact of sin and death from this cursed and fallen world deprived us from having children since we had married so late and age prevented child bearing.

So we have loved our pets instead. It frustrates her that our newest kitten, Freddie, does not respond with affection when we give him affection. But it does not matter to me. I love to pour affection on him anyway. That is when it occurred to me, that my love was selfish, too. I derive great pleasure in simply loving him as he is, even though he squirms to get out of my arms because I see the glory and wonder of God’s creation in him.

I realized that God loves us the same way. He gets great pleasure in pouring His love upon us, even though we squirm to get out of His arms. It is very satisfying to pour out agape love even though the love is not reciprocated.

Both are selfish in the sense that there is a personal benefit. In the first love of the world, it is based upon what one gets back from the recipient. In the second love of God, there is no benefit needed from the recipient, only the satisfaction of pouring out love. Both are selfish, but the latter is not sinful.

Just to be clear, the selfish love of God is not to be confused with the selfish love of sexual predators who care nothing for their victims, but only their personal satisfaction. Nor is conjugal love justified by a husband when the wife is non responsive. The love of God cares about the other and does not cross the line of their free will. My kitten actually enjoys the love just as my wife does when she is in a bad mood. But I will back off when I realize that either my wife or cat take offense by my “pouring” love upon them.

It is with this type of selfish agape love that real marriage is based upon. I heard the story of a man whose wife became an incoherent invalid, yet the man loved his wife and cared for her every need for 30 years until she passed away. He poured his love upon her and was satisfied with simply loving her, even though she could not reciprocate. Mothers love their children regardless of the affection returned and pet owners love their pets the same way. Of course, the agape love is the foundation of all godly love upon which reciprocal love is also built. God wants us to love Him back. But we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), so reciprocal love becomes symbiotic when based upon agape love.

But my point in this blog, is that even the agape love of God has a selfish benefit that is good. With this understanding one can love those who do not love you and still gain personal satisfaction, which is in the “good” selfish love. This is why those who rejected Jesus were still loved by him.

Mark 10:21-22
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatsoever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (KJV).

We are so focused on the sinfulness of selfishness that we tend to regard self as inherently evil, which it is not. God so loved our “selves” that salvation is all about destroying sin while saving our “selves”. There is much talk about God being love, but we forget that God is also a God of pleasure. I do not mean in the hedonistic sense, but He created all things for “His pleasure“. And He gave us the senses for pleasure. So maritial conjugation was made pleasureable. Self in of itself is not sin. God is a self as are we. And He enjoys pouring His love and bestowing gifts upon us. That brings pleasure to Him. So, this Valentine’s Day, pour out your love on your spouse, family and friends, even if they do not respond in like manner. Love given freely is a pleasure in of itself.

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