24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:23-25 (ESV)
God letting you have your way is not necessarily a good thing. We often wonder with Job why it is the wicked prosper. And they do in this world. God gives all people their daily bread, even all evil people. This we know. And yet some people starve, and others have way more than they need. Most of us today have way more than we need. But there isn’t any rhyme or reason to any of this in this world. Some are born to it wealth, and the majority born to poverty. Some overcome their poverty and others are ruined.
God has made himself known in this world. He has done it through creation and he has done it through his Son. But those who don’t want to acknowledge him will worship creation, will worship the creature rather than God, and God will give them up to the lusts of their hearts. That is he lets them go their own way, he lets them do what it is they want to do. It is his wrath being poured out upon them in this life.
The lusts of their hearts are so often the same as the lusts of our hearts. They worship the creature rather than the creator. Of course here we have the first hints of sins that will be addressed more blatantly in a minute. The dishonoring of their bodies. In 1 Cor. 6 Paul talks of sexual sin as sin that is committed against the body. All other sin he says is outside the body. But sexual sin is especially grievous because it is in the body. And of course, Jesus says that it is through the act of sex that two become one flesh. It’s not actually the marriage rite that does this, but sexual intercourse. We become one with those that we engage in sexual intercourse. There are mysteries here beyond comprehension. But perhaps this is at the root of why it is that this then becomes a dishonoring of our body. Husbands love your wives, Paul tells us in Eph. 5 and here again he points out that by loving our wives we love ourselves. We are one flesh with them. Therefore to dishonor our wives is to dishonor ourselves.
But when we worship ourselves we dishonor ourselves, because we exchange the truth about God for a lie. Here, is reference to the lie of Satan in the garden telling us we can be like God, that we can be equal with he who created us. Rather than being thankful that he has created us, we spurn him in acts of self-worship that inevitably bring about the dishonoring of our bodies. Sin that leaves us empty and cold.
So it is, that just as to love our wives is to love ourselves, just as it is for a wife to love herself when she loves her husband, so it is to love yourself when you love the creator who is blest forever. It’s all bound together. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your might. Then love your neighbor as yourself. There are those who say that the love for yourself is self-evident. That God is not telling you to love yourself, but as you naturally love yourself so you should love your neighbor. I’m not always sure on this.
I suppose I’m not always sure on this because though it should be a natural thing to love yourself, we are not always prone to doing it. Sin manifests itself in so many ways. And for many there is a self-loathing that permeates their soul. We love because he first loved us. Without his love, we are truly incapable of love, even love for ourselves. Yes, there tends to be a desire to put ourselves before others. And in a way that is love of self. But then we often make a distinction between love and lust. Lust is the shadow of love, it isn’t true love. And perhaps it is nothing more than a lust for life that we are talking about here, the sort of lusts that God gives the unbeliever over to. Our love for neighbor, is our love for self. Maybe it isn’t as intimately connected as it is between husband and wife, where to love your spouse is to love your own flesh. Yet, it seems that it all proceeds from love for God, when Jesus cites Moses concerning these commandments of love. And it is all impossible without the love of God.
Without his love we are given over to the lusts of our hearts, we are without love having lost it in the exchange of truth about God for the lie. Our sin takes over. We grope about in the dark. Sin and death rob life of meaning and value, rob our lives of love. When we put ourselves first according to the lusts of our hearts, this isn’t love. Jesus showed us what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. He loved himself and it meant a life of self-denial, the carrying of a cross, of death to this world, of living to God. His love for God meant a love for those whom God loves. And those whom God loves are you and I for whom he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Yes, God loves you, even you who in this world have been used and abused, who have dishonored your bodies, sinned against your flesh in weakness, in a lust for life that left your cold and empty. God loves you, who do not love yourselves and take out the anger in your soul upon those around you. God loves you. It can seem so trite at times, but it is profound. It is the love we are looking for, true love that allows us finally to love ourselves. Yes, allows us to love ourselves, not put ourselves first to the exploitation of others. Not a love for ourselves that we experience in outbursts of greed and vice, that leave us feeling ashamed of ourselves, the sort of shame that then seems to fuel even more greed and vice. But true love for ourselves, love that comes with the forgiveness of sins, a love that recognizes the love God has for us ungodly people given to greed and vice, a love that covers our shame with the blood of Christ.