Monday, December 12, 2016

At Christmas, the self life or the selfless life

It is always a good thing to look to Christ and His Word when a person with a large following who has been given an evangelical platform begins to offer advice that doesn't quite sound like the selfless Savior. In fact, it’s indispensable. And it’s especially appropriate to do so during Advent.

Such was the need when Glennon Doyle Melton recently updated her nearly 650,000 Facebook followers about the changes in her life – divorce from her husband, with whom she shares three children, and a new love, female soccer great Abby Wambach. The news she shared, however, was not as significant as the mind-set she counseled her followers to adopt. In her post sharing her news, Melton said:
[I]t is my job as a leader not to concern myself too deeply about what you think and feel about me -- about the way I live my life. That is what I want to model now, because that is what I want for YOU: I want you to grow so comfortable in your own being, your own skin, your own knowing -- that you become more interested in your own joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about you. That you remember that you only live once, that this is not a dress rehearsal and so you must BE who you are. I want you to refuse to betray yourself. Not just for you. For ALL OF US. Because what the world needs -- in order to grow, in order to relax, in order to find peace, in order to become brave -- is to watch one woman at a time live her truth without asking for permission or offering explanation.
This message from Melton -- a popular author and blogger who has been a speaker on the Women of Faith tour -- spread around the world as our church was nearing the close of a sermon series through the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The contrast between Christ’s expectation of His followers in that letter and Melton’s expectation of hers in her post is stark.

The call to humility and servanthood marks Philippians. The letter urges Jesus’ followers toward the opposite of self-focus, self-fulfillment, self-actualization, self-gratification.

On behalf of Christ, Paul urges the church to think of others as more important than themselves (Phil. 2:3) and to look out for the interests of others, not just their own (Phil. 2:4). Then he provides the supreme example: Christ put others before Himself by becoming a man and humbling Himself by going to the cross to die a humiliating, yet ultimately glorious, death (Phil. 2:5-8). He goes on to provide two examples of Christians who followed Jesus’ example to serve the interests of others.

What Paul described is the truly authentic life -- a life molded in conformity to the selfless Savior. That is the life all who previously were suffering as the walking dead have been rescued to live. We do not betray ourselves when we live for others. We live the authentic life for which we were created and re-created. And it results in true joy.

As we near Christmas, we are reminded anew that in becoming a man God the Son did not betray Himself. He gave Himself for the eternal benefit of others. And He now reigns as Lord of all. For Him, humiliation was the way to exaltation.

In this season and beyond, may we live by Jesus’ work and words. After all, it is He who said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).