Several years ago, a few months after his wedding, a good friend told me one of the best ways to realize how selfish you are: get married. I laughed when I heard his statement but he explained how merging two lives suddenly causes you to realize how selfish you lived before.
This past week I was thinking upon his words again when I adopted a little puppy. Some friends of mine are moving to Arizona and are not able to take their 13 week puppy* with them. I had pondered getting a dog for some time but usually decided, mainly because of my busy lifestyle, that it wasn’t for me. But they insisted and I relented, with much joy and uneasiness … you see, I’ve never had a dog before.
You know what I’ve learned this past week?
Didn’t really see it before. No, that’s not an excuse but like my friend said, when you tangle your life with another’s (even a cute dog), you begin to see areas of your life where you are prone to selfishness. Now that you’re not able to do what you’ve always done, now that you need to ask permission or plan a way for the two of you to do it together, it makes you realize how selfish you normally lived.
Have you read Philippians 2.3-4? It is a fascinating passage about how Christians are called to live – and it’s not selfish.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
A Christian life, according to Paul, is always turned outward. I’m not suppose to think of myself, I’m to be concerned with you. That is exactly how Jesus lived, isn’t it? He never thought about Himself, rather, He was constantly pouring His life out, washing people’s feet, meeting their needs, and living a lifestyle of the Cross – the bleeding, suffering, pour your life out way of living. It’s what some of my friends call the Cross Style. Yes, the cross was an event in the life of Jesus (and what an incredible, overwhelming, life-altering event it was!), but when you step back a little, you realize He lived the cross everyday of His life.
Paul says that nothing in my life is to be done through selfishness or pride. In the Greek, do you know what the word “nothing” means? It means NOTHING! There is to be no area of my life that is filled with selfishness or pride.
Rather, Paul states our lives are to be one humility, where we lift up and esteem others better than ourselves. The word “esteem” means to put someone in the lead, to put them before you.
He goes on and declares that we are not to look out for our own interests but for the interests of others. When you go back into the early Greek manuscripts, you find that the words “only” and “also” in verse four are not there. A literal translation of Philippians 2.4 reads: “Let each of you look out not for his own interests, but for the interests of others.”
Can you imagine what it would look like to be in a community full of these kinds of people? A community of selfless people? A group of people who never-ever lived for themselves, never had their own needs at the front of their minds, but rather were continually serving, washing the feet, and placing the needs of others as the most important thing in their lives.
What would you call such a group of people?
We would probably call them “Christians.”
“But what about my needs?!?!” you ask. “If I’m always focused outward and meeting the needs of others, my needs will never be met. Someone’s got to look out for number one, and if I don’t do it, no one will!”
If those are the thoughts running in your mind, you’ve missed the beauty of selfless community. If I wasn’t concerned with my needs, my wants, my desires, my pleasure, my dreams, my whatever, but rather was wrapped up in meeting your needs, fulfilling your dreams, washing your feet – then my life is turned outward. And if you lived that way, do you see that we are both having our needs met and our dreams are being fulfilled, but not through selfishness but selflessness.
That is what marriage is suppose to be. There is a oneness in the giving up of oneself. The groom looks lovingly into the eyes of his bride and declares that he will not live for himself, his wants, needs, pleasure, etc but rather will live to meet her needs, fulfill her dreams, serve and wash her feet. And she in turn says the same. Both people, in selfless community, are getting all they need, not because they demand it from the other, but because they decided to not think of themselves and turn outward.
But the question still remains, what if I am the only one who lives this way? What if no one around me is there to meet my needs?
You are STILL called to live this way. Whether anyone meets your needs or not isn’t your concern – to be worried and concerned about it is yet another proof that you are selfish and full of pride. Jesus lived His life pouring out, meeting needs, investing in others without people doing the same for Him. He had to lean and depend all the more upon the strength of the Father.
Would you be willing to live this way, even if no one ever reciprocated? Would you allow Jesus to turn your life and focus outward, allowing Him to meet your needs? It is the call of every believer! The halls of Christian history are filled with stories of those who poured their lives out, with never a thought of their own. Will you join them?
Question: what scares and excites you the most about living a life completely abandoned and totally poured out upon the world around you? Leave your response in the comment section below.
*For those interested, yes the picture above is the puppy I adopted. From what I’m told, she is a mix of Collie, Shepherd, Chow, and Heeler. Her given name is Ezra Nehemiah but I’ve been calling her Miah for short. 🙂