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BTS: Is True Love About Loving Yourself?

Screenshot taken from YouTube Video

“True love first begins with loving myself,” began BTS’ leader Kim Nam-jun, better known as RM, in his impassioned six-minute speech, which ended with resounding applause from the packed crowd at the launch of a UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) youth campaign yesterday (24 Sep).

As I watched and listened to RM’s personal story of how he himself struggled with meeting the expectations of others and broke free of it, and his eventual call to stop “trying to fit ourselves into a mold”, I was moved. Of course, it helped that the leader of the world’s biggest boy band spoke articulately and fluently in English, and that he, along with the rest of his team mates who stood behind him in solidarity, was dressed impeccably.

I was also impressed, because this was the first time a K-pop band had been given the privilege of addressing the United Nations, as a result of their partnership with UNICEF’s global initiative, Generation Unlimited, which is aimed at empowering young people by increasing opportunities and investments for them.

But at the same time, I couldn’t help but find his message a little ironic, as I recalled the many reports I had read of the extremely competitive, stressful, and controlled conditions members of K-pop bands are put through in order to fit into the industry’s mold. It has been reported that trainees are often required to forgo their personal lives, which includes their friendships and hobbies, in order to devote time to perfecting their vocal and dance skills.

This was recently debated about and cast into the spotlight again following the tragic suicide of SHINee’s Jonghyun last December, who had left a harrowing note highlighting the pressures young stars face in South Korea’s highly competitive entertainment industry.

But beyond the irony of his sharing, it was his emphatic pronouncement of “loving myself” as the mark of true love which I found myself struggling to agree with. There is no denying that it’s a popular idea which stems from good intentions. Resist the pressure to conform. Be true to yourself. Express your conviction. These catchphrases definitely sound inspiring and empowering—but they can be dangerous if these ideas are separated from God’s blueprint for our lives.

As believers, we’re called to something else. Self-fulfilment or self-actualization cannot and must not be our end goal. Instead, the greatest commandment Jesus gives to his believers is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And he immediately follows that with a call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40).

The Bible is emphatic and consistent about where true love stems from and who we should love: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7a). Self-love, as the Bible puts it, is a natural posture we all already gravitate towards. Loving God and loving others, on the other hand, is not.

In fact, one of the most notable references to “loving ourselves” is highlighted as one of the characteristics of what it would be like in the “last days”, as it says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (Emphasis mine)

It can even be argued that the Bible seems to speak strongly against “self-love”, such as in Philippians 2:3-11, where it is written that we are always to value others above ourselves and consider the interests of others more than our own.

To be sure, BTS has done a lot of good for others, such as raising 1 million USD for UNICEF to help in ending violence against children and young people—and they certainly should be lauded for that. But perhaps we as believers, particularly for those of us who are fans, need to take a step back and evaluate what we hear—especially when it comes from those we esteem in high regard.

As believers, whose voice will we listen to? Who do we love the most? Are we prepared to be break out of society’s mold and definition of true love?

Why I Gravitated Towards BTS’s Music

Screenshot taken from BTS ‘IDOL’ Official Video

Written By Sharon Lee, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

My favorite K-pop boyband BTS has just released a new album. I was really excited to hear that they’ve set another record with the music video of their latest single, “Idol”. The video racked up over 50 million views within a day of its release—the highest hits for any YouTube video over a 24-hour period!

BTS’s latest record-breaking feat led me to ponder on the reasons behind their success. Why are so many people—including myself—drawn towards their music? After much thought, I concluded that BTS means so much to me because I identify with the issues their music addresses—especially the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty in our yearning for love and significance. Their songs remind me of a time when I was grappling with these emotions.

When I was younger, I was often troubled by issues relating to relationships and the future. When the time came for me to pursue a university education, I left the comfort of home for a foreign land and enrolled in a course of study that did not suit me. I also encountered conflicts in my friendships and experienced an emotional breakdown for the first time.

At that time, the future looked bleak and there seemed to be no way out of my struggles. I couldn’t understand what I was doing. Moreover, my mother had fallen ill and I was really worried about her condition. When I was alone at night, I would often think about everything that had gone wrong in my life and it brought me a lot of pain.

In an attempt to seek security and approval from others, I often frequented bars and night clubs, and had casual flings, just so I could numb the emptiness within. I also desired to live a life of significance—but my life showed no signs of moving in that direction. As a result, I drowned my insecurities and helplessness with these distractions.

However, my attempts to escape my feelings of emptiness and loneliness were futile. Instead, I felt emptier and lonelier within.

Just as I was about to hit my breaking point, God found me. One of my seniors at university shared the Gospel with me and brought me to church. At that time, I thought that church was dull and felt annoyed by my senior’s constant attempts to get me to attend church. But instead of avoiding her, I somehow found myself accepting her invitations and even started sharing my struggles with her.

I attended church and cell group regularly for two years, but nothing in my life changed. Looking back, I can see now that God has His perfect timing—but at that time, I grew even more frustrated with my life.

One day, my senior invited me to watch an Easter musical in church. Little did I know that God would change my life through this musical.

The musical was about a girl who tried to run away from God and became entangled in sin. But in spite of all that, God never stopped pursuing her and showing her how much He loves her. I felt extremely touched and couldn’t stop crying as I watched the different scenes unfold.

Somehow, the realization hit me that all these while, God knew my deepest emotions—my grievances, struggles, insecurities, sadness, and self-loathing—and understood them completely. Every line and song resonated with me deeply as my heart began to experience rest. My eyes were finally opened to the way out of my sorrows and predicament—Jesus Christ.

After I came to know Christ, I often wondered what would have happened if I had not turned to Him—would I still be attempting to escape and numb my feelings? What would my life be like if God had not found me and turned it around?

There is no doubt that BTS’s songs are empowering and inspiring, but nothing compares to the perfect love which only God can give. I had looked to so many things to fill the void in my heart, but all of them paled in comparison to that moment when His love awakened and overwhelmed me during the musical. That was what motivated me to leave my old ways behind and start my life afresh with the hope I now have.

Life is a crossroad, with many possible options that may lead us into unknown destinations. But I know that the God who loves me is walking with me. There will be times when I will be afraid, insecure and feel like giving up, but I can persevere and keep going because He is with me. Wherever life’s circumstances may lead me, God is the lamp onto my feet and the light onto my path (Psalm 119:105). I am not alone, and I will never have to face any struggles in life on my own again.

Every time I feel down and lonely, and reach out to BTS’s songs to draw strength, I remind myself to first turn to God’s Word and hear what He has to say to me. If you are facing similar struggles, and have been looking to the things of this world—whether it’s music, TV shows, or alcohol—for comfort, will you consider giving God a chance to speak into your life?