The Greatest Love of All? Self-Love? No…

“Learning to love yourself, this is the greatest love of all.”

Those words are from the song The Greatest Love of All written by Linda Creed and Michael Messer. It’t been around long enough to probably be classified as an oldie. Whitney Houston rocked this song with her amazing voice in 1985.

This song’s words resonated with a lot of people, here are a few of the key concepts :

I believe that children are our future,

Teach them well and let them lead the way,

Show the all the beauty they possess inside,

GIve them a sense of pride to make it easier

Let the children’s laughter remind us of how we used to be…

It sounds beautiful and sweet. We live in a child-centric time, where phrases such as “it’s all about the children” are enough to justify nearly anything, especially tax increases. We are at the end (I hope) of a multi-decade emphasis on self-esteem enhancement with kids—and this part of the song reflects this well.

So it sounds sweet, but let’s look at this through God’s eyes. For his view is also known as reality.

Are children our future, spiritually speaking.


Our children will grow up to be adults, and as we age there will be a short time when we will be under their care and their decisions will have more impact on society—so our children will impact the society we live in—if we live that long.

But our future as physical humans is death. Eternal life is our present reality and the only enduring reality. Our children will also share the same realness. By the time our children are old enough to really have enough influence on us we really have a very small amount of time left to live on this earth.

It could be said that they are the future of our society, and that is true—but what blood-bought believers should grasp from that is a sense of dread. Yes, dread!

For if our children are the future of our society, we are completely hopeless.

Just as our parents should have been in despair if their children were the future of society, and maybe they should have been.

Look at society—we live in the most narcissistic, entitled, and self-worshipping age in history. In other words, we are living in the age where the concepts found in the song The Greatest Love of All have been realized. What has it produced?

We are currently experiencing a society that is the most depressed, anxious, sleep-deprived, obese, suicidal, addicted, and medicated ever. I would suggest, biblically, that this makes perfect sense—since we have embraced so strongly learning to love ourselves as the greatest love of all.

I know this all sounds harsh, but I love being around kids. I volunteer at a camp every summer and I have a lot of young friends.

I do not do it because these kids a so great (although some are) but because I love them. Many of them are being groomed in this “loving yourself” mentality, being told that everything the do is awesome, and quite simply—these kids are horrible and heading for a future of misery.

That is why I volunteer and spend so much time with kids…because I want to share something with them.

I want to share the real greatest love of all, and to impart an important and gritty view of self that comes straight from God’s Word.

Sitting at the Foot of the Cross

In my counseling with people who are struggling spiritually I invite them to take a mental journey.

I ask them to do something with me then but also on a regular basis in their times with God—indeed, this is (I have found) one of the most powerful ways in which to experience our Lord and Savior.

I ask my clients to use their God-given imagination to go to the foot of the cross and sit on the rocky ground about six-feet away from the feet of Yeshua while he hangs there. I urge them to really stay there in their hearts and look, take it all in, and to ponder in their hearts, “why did he do this?”

I mean really, what made this necessary, and what does it mean to me?

The problem with a person raised in the secular “greatest love of all” way is that the cross may be sad or tragic-looking to them, but it is meaningless.

For a person who has been told throughout their lives that they are utterly awesome, that they not only possess beauty inside but are beauty personified (very high self-esteem), who have been rewarded for their every action at every step (participation-trophy mentality), and who cannot take criticism or even consider hearing a viewpoint that challenges what they consider to be their truth—someone such as this cannot take any substantial meaning from the cross at all.

I’m not exaggerating—if you are wondering why so many young people gladly attend youth group pizza parties and go to “mission trips” involving amusement parks and beaches, yet leave church once they leave home—look no further. You have found the key.

As long as church is about worshipping and serving themselves, they love it. Someone who “is the future,” who possesses “beauty inside,” and who is repeatedly told how awesome they are is certainly pleased as long as their church family worships them by providing the things they enjoy.

When such a “child” goes to the foot of the cross—it is incomprehensible. They are being told that this guy on the cross died for their shortcomings, of which the adults and school systems have demonstrably convinced them that they have none.

So this guy writhing in anguish, covered in blood, and with blood still oozing off his precious toes—perhaps he died for someone but it wasn’t for me, the possessor of beauty inside!

So, children raised in the self-esteem “greatest love of all” manner find the cross wasted on them and church becomes irrelevant once it ceases to be focused on worshipping them.

The challenge for believers attempting to raise or mentor children into mature adulthood is that this now-old idea permeates our culture (including our churches) to the extent that daring to suggest that we should teach children about the inner realities of who they are requiring a Savior is seen as practical heresy.

The True Greatest Love of All Method

Let’s break down the true spiritual reality along the lines of the song.

  1. “I believe that children are our future:” No, they are not. Jesus, in John 15 makes it abundantly clear that our future is only found in our abiding in him, the true vine. In fact, he also makes it unmistakable that if we do not abide in him, “we can do nothing.” (Jn. 15: 5) The reality the Messiah teaches is not only is he our future, he is our present. I.e., we either walk with him now, or we are dead branches that will be cast into the fire. We can produce nothing good if we are not intertwined into the life and power giving “true vine.”
  2. “Teach them well and let them lead the way:” Yes, teach them well. Of course start by teaching them that it is indeed, as the previous point mentioned, that Jesus is their future and they must choose to dwell in him. But do not expect an immature small human to “lead the way.” God gave children parents, mentors, and other people because they need us to lead the way. This is huge, you do understand that it is hard to give someone something you do not possess! Can you, if you do not dwell as a fruitful vine firmly attached to the one True Vine, pass on a love for that Vine that would be attractive to your child? Will they go for what you have not gone for?
  3. “Show them all the beauty they possess inside:” This one is a tough one. Of a truth, each human on earth is an image bearer of our beautiful and magnificent Creator God. But history shows that the reality of what God spoke of the people of Judah is, well, true; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it.” (Jer. 17:9) Yes, there is the beauty of our Creator God within, but our children need to understand that due to the freedom God bequeathed to us we have a strong tendency to be “desperately sick.” We have a potential for beauty, but are likely to be deceptive, ugly, selfish, and evil. Our kids need to embrace this reality as a part of their future—it may sound strange but realize without this gritty and true view of who they are, our kids will remain self-worshippers all their lives. It is vital (and the history of man should provide enough evidence of this, if your personal history does not) that we convince our kids of the truth that each of us has an infinite capacity for rationalization and self-delusion. Without our being firmly grafted into the True Vine, we are each capable of unimaginable horrors.
  4. “Give them a sense of pride to make it easier:” This one really surprises me; our society seems to embrace pride, historically acknowledged to be one of the seven deadly sins. I’ve heard believers talking about instilling pride in their students—hmmm, why not? And while we’re at it, may we bestow gluttony, envy, avarice, sloth, lust, and wrath? I usually supervise 10-12 year-old boys at summer camp, and the over-weaning boasting and arrogance even at that age is amazing. I would ask what happened to the biblical teachings such as found in Jeremiah 9:23, 24, which urges us not to boast in our strength, riches, or wisdom—but to only boast that he “understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” But I know why this isn’t taught—by and large our current generation of believing parents are not even aware of that passages’ existence. Our biblical illiteracy looms large. Once again, it is challenging to pass on to children what we do not possess. Further in this section of the song—“make it easier,” well, is the good live found in what is “easier?” Did Jesus say that the path we should be on was the wide way, the easy path? Oh right, he said that leads to destruction—and that is where we find ourselves to day, right?
  5. “Let the children’s laughter remind us of how we used to be:” Okay, I can say “amen” to this one, but not in the sense the songwriters originally intended. The purpose of that exercise of going in our hearts and minds and sitting at the foot of the cross is exactly this, to be reminded of how we use to be, and striving with the meaning of a God who would do what we see Christ doing on the cross for us. There is a much better song to use as our anthem—perhaps our goal, in training up childish humans into their intended mature adulthood, written by Isaac Watts. I will not reproduce the lyrics here, but a profoundly worthy parenting goal would be to train up adults who comprehend the meaning of its phrases such as, “…see from his head, his hands, his feet—sorrow and love flow mingled down.” That your maturing child could go to the cross using their God-bequeathed imagination and sit silently in tears as they consider the horror and beauty of what they see before themselves. Yes, I can say amen to this—in the manner that I can be profoundly thankful that God in his great mercy showed me the ugliness of what resides within me, he has caused me to be regretful of much of my childish laughter, but he has brought an enduring joy through the magnificent love shown at the cross. As Watts profoundly writes, “Where the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life…my all.

May we examine our hearts in the light of the beauty and love of Christ. Let us reject self-esteem theology, the errant musings of songwriters typified by The Greatest Love of All, and may we instead plug ourselves into the True Vine—and dwell in the greatest love of all.


(Image by itsmejust/Shuttterstock)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *