Give Yourself to Others …

Posts Tagged ‘selfishness

Have you ever noticed, being a disciple of Jesus is inconvenient?

As a Jesus disciple, our focus is ideally, and continually, on others, seeking to do what is best for them. Figuring out what is best for others takes time and thought. Then actually doing it, may be even more difficult — either in terms of time or effort.

But all of that is inconvenient — but then, it’s not about us, is it?

Like many people, I’ve probably read 1 Corinthians 13, a thousand times.  The description of “love” by Paul, is beautifully inspiring.  I often read it when I perform weddings.

On a side note, the old King James Version translation of agape as “charity” is probably a better translation than “love.”  But that’s a topic for another time.

What I’ve missed in the thousands of times I’ve read 1 Cor 13 are the first three verses (this is from The Message):

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Am I the only one who missed this?

I can be the smartest person in the world.  I can understand everything … even the greatest mysteries about God … I may have so much faith that I can perform miracles … I can be the most generous person in the world.

And if all of this is true, but I’m not loving others, the way Jesus loved me, then it’s all pointless.

If we are not loving towards one another, we’ve missed the whole point from Jesus.

Think about that, the next time you argue about doctrine!

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote,

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Over the years, this quote has been very popular … I think for obvious reasons.

But I also think there is another purpose for the “space”.  Probably more than one.

In that space is the opportunity for us to submit our will to God.  To subjugate our selfishness to the loving will of God.  To say, rather than respond the way I want to respond, I will respond the way God wants me to respond.

One of the struggles in using this space for this purpose is the time, effort and discipline it takes to consider how God would prefer we respond.  It’s unlikely to be an automatic response.  It’s much more likely to require thoughtful consideration.

On a side note … our ability to use this space is also what separates us from being just another form of life.  It is evidence of our unique ability to think and act against our human nature, sometimes act against our own self interest.

Here is a question I’ve been contemplating a little in the past few days:

  • Why is it so hard for us to love one another the way Jesus loved us?

One obvious explanation is that we don’t really understand — or is it don’t really accept — the way that Jesus loved us. And I believe there’s a lot too that. Especially since he loves us inspite of ourselves, rather than because of ourselves. And in this culture, especially, aren’t we supposed to have a reason to love someone?

But I also think there’s a reason that’s even a little more basic, a step even more fundamental: It’s hard for us to love one another because we’re too self-centered. We care more about ourselves than some one else.

It’s more important for me to be right than for you to be right.

It’s more important for me to get my way than for you to get your way.

After all, don’t I know better than you do anyway?

Let’s face it, I’m writing this blog, you aren’t. Therefore my point-of-view is more significant, more important, more … whatever.

I hope you recognize how far my tongue is sticking into my cheek during these last few comments.

But I do believe that our self-centeredness is central to our inability to love one another. Each of us is messed up in one way or another. Each of fails to love as Jesus loved. Which means each of us is undeserving of a righteous position before God.

But God’s grace and forgiveness extends equally to each of us.

Thus, no one has any inherent right before God to consider himself or herself more important or more righteous than another. We’re all guilty of something.

So, in the words of a friend of mine, get over yourself. Then, maybe each of us can learn a little more clearly how to love one another the way Jesus loves us.

I was tempted to title this post, “The Root of All Problems” or “The Root of Most Problems.” I guess that’s an admission of how strongly I feel about the point I want to make.

That root cause is selfishness, or self-centeredness. Maybe you have a better word, but I talking about the fact that most of us, most of the time put ourselves at the center of the universe.

  • How I feel is more important that now you feel. It’s more important for me to be content or happy or satisfed, than it is for you to be content or happy or satisfied.
  • My needs are more important than your needs.

You probably get the point.

This is the root of so many problems because most conflict arises when your needs differ from other needs. And this can manifest itself in so many ways:

  • Christians argue about doctrine because one thinks it’s important to be right on all doctrine and another Christian has a different belief.
  • Husbands and wives argue because one wants to go out and another wants to stay home.
  • Parents argue with children because the parents want “blind obedience” to their commands. And the children rebel because they think they’re as smart as their parents and can make their own decisions.
  • Protestors lobby the legislature because they think they know better than others what some law should say.

We think too much of ourselves, and don’t think enough of others.

I think this is some of what Jesus was talking about when he said we should “love one another as I have loved you and gave my life for you. And this is how others will know that you’re my disciples, because you love one another.”

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