Words We Prefer Not to Hear: “Selflessness” January 22 2016

If you were to hold a popularity contest for words, “selflessness” would not be anywhere near the top of the list.  Advertisers spend billions of dollars trying to convince us of things we need to make us look better, feel better, and enjoy the conveniences of life.  “Selflessness” is not generally a good marketing strategy.

The Bible speaks extensively of selflessness, the greatest example of which is Jesus Himself.  Selflessness and servanthood, inspired by God’s grace, is a theme woven throughout the Scriptures, and we see it everywhere in Jesus’ life.  For example:
  •  Matthew 20:28 – “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …”
  •  Luke 22:27 – “I am among you as the one who serves.”
  •  Luke 23:34 – “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
  •  Philippians 2:6,7 – “Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men.”
  •  I Peter 2:23 – “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross ….”

And the instruction to us is unmistakable:
  •  John 13:14 – “If I, then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (in response to Jesus’ demonstration of love and humility in washing the disciples’ feet)
  •  I Peter 2:21 – “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”  (demonstrated in verse 23 by his not striking back when reviled or mistreated)
  •  Philippians 2:5 – “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus ….” (in response to Jesus’ demonstration of selflessness in Philippians 2:6,7)
It is one thing to read and understand the significance of Jesus’ example.  It is another to apply these truths in the everyday challenges of life and relationships with others.  That’s the hard part, but it is also transformational in our lives.  It is the way to true contentment in life, a contentment that the world can neither offer nor understand.  Yet as believers, we have been privileged to have that truth revealed to us.  

As Jesus told His disciples, “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”  To the world, this would appear to be a contradiction.  To the Christian, this is the inspiration for continuing to serve Him.  It gives us the freedom to not be concerned about fairness or equality for ourselves.  This teaching was revolutionary in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and it is still revolutionary today.  

Is it possible that we may be taken advantage of at times?  Certainly.  Is it possible that people on earth may not see all the “good” we have done and the “sacrifices” we have made?  Of course.  But that’s OK.  Relax.  We are not doing it for other people or for credit anyway.   Regardless of how many sacrifices we think we make, these pale in comparison to the grace of God demonstrated to us by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  No matter how much we serve, it will never be enough to repay God for His forgiveness.  

Some might be concerned that this is a prescription for becoming a doormat, or that others will escape their responsibility or be encouraged to continue in their bad behavior.  When do we need to speak up about these things?  We’ll deal with that in a future blog.  But we will never be able to do that lovingly and effectively without first learning and practicing this simple but profound truth taught and demonstrated by Christ.

If you would like more information about BCF courses and materials, you can reach us at www.bcfministries.org or call 760.347.4608.  You may also subscribe to this weekly blog by replying to blog@bcfministries.org and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line.  

Steve Smith