Popular it is to hear in church settings the acrostic, J.O.Y., which stands for
Jesus, Others, You.
We are taught to love in this order:
3) You (ourselves)
The “love one another” theme of the entire New Testament originates from the Great Commandments which are a condensation of the Ten Commandments. The J.O.Y. teaching is well-intended and taken from the second of the Great Commandments, “love your neighbor as (you love) yourself.” From this second commandment flows the “love one another” theme of the New Testament as it springs from Christ’s demonstration of His love for us at Calvary. As He has done for us we are to do for one another (John 15:12).
The problem with the J.O.Y. acrostic is that when we examine the text from which it originates, it’s not Biblical because the letters, O. and Y. are out of order. In fact, the J.O.Y. teaching fails to apply the full verse in context, invites idolatry and actually prevents us from loving others.
Let’s take a closer look…
The text is Matthew 22:36-40:
36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment.
39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as (you love) yourself.’
40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Verse 39 (above) is the command from which the J.O.Y. teaching originates. The first problem with the teaching is that in order to implement it we must infer a skewed reading of the verse and focus solely on LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR while forgetting or ignoring AS (YOU LOVE) YOURSELF. And without full application of the latter half of the verse which puts in context the former half, we misconstrue the entire command.
Instead of inferring a skewed interpretation, let’s choose to read the whole command in context and apply it comprehensively. When we do, we can infer a whole new meaning and learn to love God, ourselves and others obediently and effectively.
Just think logically about the notion of “Jesus, Others, You.” Your formula reads J > O > Y.
Jesus (J) is the Living Water. In the J.O.Y. scenario, you (Y) separate yourself from the Living Water because others (O) are in the way, in between you and Christ (J.O.Y.). How can that possibly bring joy? The truth is that it can’t.
If you keep people (O) lodged between you (Y) and Christ (J), you are not walking yoked with Christ (J.Y.). Instead, people stand as an idol between you and Christ (J.O.Y.). This is the second problem with the teaching.
The bottom line is that placing anything between the believer and Christ (J.__.Y.) is error. The believer must walk shoulder-to-shoulder in yoke with Christ at all times (J.Y.). In Christ’s yoke, our eyes and mental focus must stay fixed on Christ, otherwise, we allow ourselves to be used as an enemy puppet within the body.
When we fail to keep Christ in His rightful place allowing others to come between us and Him, we fail to love Him and fail to love ourselves as God does. As a result, with the open gap left between us and Him, idolatry ensues. In this cycle, we fail to love God and ourselves because idolatry causes us to dethrone Christ and forget our worth, acceptance, identity, boundaries, forgiven state, not to mention the power, love and sound mind that He has already given us.
We don’t know how to love ourselves as God does because we have learned in error that to do so is selfishness. Loving yourself God’s way is not selfishness; rather, it is walking in agreement with Him. We need to refigure the faulty idea, “loving yourself is selfish,” to “loving yourself (as God does) is walking in agreement with God” (Amos 3:3).
What does walking in agreement with God look like? Here’s a snapshot:
He loves us -> we love ourselves as He does.
He accepts us-> we accept ourselves as He does.
He forgives us -> we forgive ourselves as He does.
He gives us grace-> we give ourselves grace as He does.
And so on.
In fact, hard science reveals that loving oneself (as God does) helps us not just spiritually, but physically. It lowers blood pressure, betters eye sight, hearing, overall mood, and so on (Dr. Christianne Northrup). Loving ourselves as God does benefits us in every aspect of life. By God’s design, when we walk in agreement with Him, we win. We can’t argue with that.
From God we get love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace and so much more. Why would we want anything interrupting that flow? Failing to love ourselves as God does removes a necessary link in the chain of God’s love so that the chain is broken and ineffective. And when we allow others to wedge themselves as idols between us and God (J.O.Y.), the flow is further blocked.
Here is a general model of the flow or the six stages/principles of God’s love. Each stage is a crucial link in the chain of His love. When one link is severed, the chain is broken and largely ineffective as it affects the whole.
1) We allow God to love us deep down (Matt. 22:37-38)
2) We love Him back with His supernatural love (Matt. 22:37-38)
3) We learn to love ourselves as He does (Matt. 22:39b)
4) We learn to love others as He loves us (Matt. 22:39a)
5) We allow/teach others to love us as God does (Matt. 22:39)
6) We display God’s supernatural love to the world (John 13:35).
The order of implementing the stages varies depending on temperament and circumstances but these five components are part and parcel of the whole “God’s love” package. It flows all around. Keep in mind that in safe community God’s love manifests most effectively. (See newlife, livingwaters, 12steps.)
If we have not learned to walk in agreement with Christ in loving ourselves as He loves us, then we cannot successfully love others consistently in His economy.
The third problem with the J.O.Y. teaching is that it actually prevents us from loving others. The failure to love ourselves as God does breaks the flow of supernatural love, invites idolatry and leads to the failure to obey the New Testament commands to “love our neighbor” (Matt. 22:39) and “love one another” (John 15:12). Think about it: God flows to us, and only then through us to others. If we fail to love ourselves as God does then we cannot possibly love others as He does because the former must precede the latter. Without His supernatural love internalized, we have nothing but our own worthless resources to give others.
The broken link of failing to love ourselves as God does looks like this:
I cannot love myself as God does-> I cannot love others as He does
I cannot accept myself as God does -> I cannot accept others as He does
I cannot forgive myself as He does -> I cannot forgive others as He does
I cannot give myself grace as He does -> I cannot give others grace as He does
However, when we walk yoked with Christ allowing ourselves to receive His love, we internalize His love, love ourselves as He does (J.Y.), and so we have supernatural love to give to others (J.Y.O.). Thus, in walking in unison with Christ we have the supernatural resources available to us to fulfill the command to love others. Instead of breaking the flow of His love and allowing idolatry, we can walk in agreement with Him, learn to love ourselves as God does and love others naturally.
Loving ourselves as God does is obedience to Christ because it puts us right in step with Him. His yoke protects us from idolatry, teaches us about boundaries, leads us into freedom and opens up our lives to experience the abundant life. Because “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh 8:10), the believer’s strength is not random joy floating around for us to catch. It’s the Lord’s joy. It belongs to Him! From Him and His Spirit we experience His strengthening joy when we are yoked with Him. Thus, loving ourselves as God does is His will for our lives.
When believers fail to love themselves as God does, and as a result fail to love one another, major repercussions follow because the failure to love one another ultimately prevents the world from witnessing that we are His disciples. Only by submission to God’s supernatural flow of love will the world witness us love one another, know that we belong to Him and desire to follow Him. When we stay authentically yoked with Christ as He commands, God’s river of love flows effectively. And staying authentically yoked with Christ begins with learning to love ourselves as He does.
Notice how the text itself reflects the real life application. In the text, the supportive and clarifying nature of the latter half of the second command, “as (you love) yourself,” provides the necessary structure and context to the former half, “Love your neighbor.” In other words, the latter part of the sentence defines how we are to love our neighbor: We learn to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Likewise, learning to love ourselves as God does provides us internally with the necessary support, structure and context we need to give and receive healthy love. In other words, God’s love for us shows us how God loves us and thus, how we are to love others: We learn to love others as He loves us.
Let’s wake up and beware of the dangers of swallowing everything we hear, in or out of church, and listen instead to the glorious Holy Spirit who is speaking to us at all times. In staying yoked closely with Christ, we naturally follow His specific direction and leading for us. As we do, we obey His words to love ourselves as He does, a condition by which we effectively love Him and one another and minister to the world (Matt. 22:38).
Almighty God loves us! Do we seek to walk in agreement with Him (Amos 3:3)? Of course, we do! Then we must learn to love ourselves as He does.
J.Y.O. = J > Y > O = Jesus, You, Others =
JESUS(yoked with)YOU(flowing to)OTHERS
Joy comes from knowing Christ intimately, surrendering progressively to Him and His ways.
Joy comes when we learn to allow Him to cleanse and carry us, direct and provide for our hearts and lives.
Joy comes when we allow Him to fill us and flow naturally through us to others.
J. Y. O… Let the Living Waters flow!
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you do yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?
The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1 John 4:16
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.