Love is self-sacrifice not self-fulfilment

Most of us accept the reflection in the mirror as our own. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Most of us accept the reflection in the mirror as our own. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Who we are is more important than how we look, writes Ivan Grindlay. 

Who are you really?

It is possible to look at yourself in the mirror and not realise who you are looking at! The condition is called "face blindness".

Most of us accept the reflection in the mirror as our own. We may not like what we see but, faced with reality, we set about to make the reality presentable.

In this ME generation, how we appeal to our peers is all-important. The Bible says, "man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart". God puts us on notice: WHO WE ARE is more important than HOW WE LOOK?

We prefer to compare ourselves with others rather than take an honest look in the mirror. Mirrors don't lie. The Bible is likened to a mirror. It provides a clear image of our true condition - not physically, but spiritually. It reveals the "thoughts and intents of our heart" (Heb. 4:12). When we encounter spiritual truth, a process begins. We are faced with a choice: will we do something about the image revealed, or will we ignore it? (James 1:22-25).

But why ignore what needs our attention? Spiritual blindness prevents us seeing reality. The disciple James exhorts us to "Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (verse 22), implying that we can be guilty of self-deception. The key is responding to what we see. Sadly, we prefer to listen to consumer opinion than God's wisdom.

The image we portray in today's society inflates our sense of wellbeing. But who we are is more than just outward appearances. It includes personality, state of mind, beliefs, attitudes, speech, decision-making - even our choice of friends. To satisfy others' expectations is fraught with danger. To not measure up may lead us to conclude that the image we bear is tattered, past its use-by date and disposable.

The God of love, who has our best interests at heart, in searching our minds and motives declares, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can fathom its depths?" The tragedy of self-deception (spiritual blindness) is widespread and satanically inspired.

James contrasts the self-deceived person with a second individual who sees himself from God's perspective and does something about it. The result is blessedness - the experience of genuine joy flowing from God's amazing grace and love. People who choose to believe experience peace with God, His forgiveness and relationship with Jesus - tangible benefits despite circumstances.

Subtle cultural influences today shape our worldviews and the images we exude. Secularisation causes us to rationalise that religious ideas no longer matter. Individualisation leads us to conclude that our own needs are all that matters. Consumerisation concludes that my buying habits form my identity. These influences then become our reality.

These cultural pressures come to us in subtle guises, but their genesis is traced to two historic events: the French Revolution - the separation of church and state (removal of church authority); and "the Enlightenment" - freedom from any appeal to the spiritual. The eviction of sacred ideas from government thinking. Everything was rationalised and science became the torch-bearer of reality.

But when God is removed from our awareness, there are consequences. The essence of true love is removed and we dance to the music of DNA: that selfish gene that advances procreation. It's called lust. In a secular world, love is sacrificed along with commitment.

If we think the secular world is impartial, we are deluded. In sacrificing love, life loses its purpose. Life is meaningless. This loss of spiritual focus has led to our mental health crisis and tragic suicide rate.

Interestingly, research reveals that people of faith are less likely to figure in these statistics.

Out of the need for meaning, our reason based around feelings, fluctuates wildly. We become delusionary, making our own reality - a weight we were never meant to carry. We are overwhelmed by this information age, but information is not knowledge. So, in this multiple-choice society, consumerism becomes our secular religion - it's all about ME. It is a toxic concoction and society is leaking at the seams.

But God is central to life. It's not about you! The Bible reveals that the way to fulfillment is to empty ourselves by seeking the benefit of others. The essence of Christian faith is the opposite of the Western mindset. We are not providing a commodity to consume but transforming hope (2 Cor. 5:14-21). Love is self-sacrifice, not self-fulfilment. God demonstrates what love is by committing Himself to humanity. Christ demonstrated sacrificial love by giving Himself willingly on a cross. It's not so much a matter of thinking less of ourselves, as thinking of ourselves less.

Our attitude is to be aligned with Christ Jesus. Though He is in essence God, He did not consider equality with God something to take advantage of for His own ends. Rather, He became a servant (Philippians 2: 5-9). "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us" (1 John 3:16).

All abuse is the result of putting ME first.

Ivan Grindlay is a member of "The Gathering", Dunedin

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