POSTED ON FEBRUARY 22, 2012:
Fighting the ravaging war of self-interest
We live in a society where generosity and caring for others is waning at an alarming rate. Selfishness and egoism is a badge worn proudly. Unless there is a pressing crisis or tragedy, the human spirit typically does not live in a rhythm of other-centeredness. It habitually exists in a pattern of "me-firstness."
In the Bible, the apostle Paul encourages us to live in a cadence that is much different than this. He emboldens us to live a life of blessing. In his letter to the church in Phillipi, Paul says, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
It's one of the first principles of the Christian life: we are here on this planet to bless one another, to serve one another, to help one another. In other words, cultivating a desire to help one another practically, specifically, and tangibly is the rhythm we are to live in all of the time.
So how do we nurture this new way to be human when the war of self-interest wages within us?
Service to one another is not something that we decide to do whenever we want to do it -- giving what is left over of our time and resources to bless someone else. In a Christian worldview, we believe our time and resources aren't actually ours. All of our time and resources belong to God and He has said what we are supposed to be blessing one another. It's not what we do when we are finished working through our list and have some extra time left over. It's what we do all the time. It's a regular pattern of sacrifice and blessing.
If we were to be honest, left to ourselves, we want to be served, not serve others. We want to be blessed, not bless others. The default mode of our hearts is self-centeredness. To live in a rhythm of serving the interest of others, we need motivation -- we need an understanding of where the impulse for blessing comes from.
In Galatians 3, verse 13, the apostle Paul says:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"-- so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
This Galatians passage says that in Jesus, the blessing of Abraham might come. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis and chapter 12, God tells Abram that he will bless him so he can bless others: "...in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
God is declaring that out of the family line of Abraham, everyone will be blessed. When we look at Galatians 3 again, we see that in Jesus, the blessing of Abraham might come to everyone, to the families of the nations.
There is another interesting passage in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 1 where we find a breakdown of the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham and through David. Matthew 1, verse 1 says, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
Now, out of all the many ancestors Matthew could choose from, Matthew centers on two in particular, Abraham and David.
Notice Matthew doesn't go all the way back to Adam in his genealogy like the gospel of Luke does. Instead, Matthew takes us back to Abraham. By saying, "son of Abraham," Matthew is evoking the promise made to Abram back in Genesis 12.
The Lord called Abram and promised to bless him and make him a blessing and that through him and his line, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham became the father of a line of promise, a family line that would display the Lord's covenant of blessing to everyone.
But this line of promise would be very specific, very particular. It would result in something precise. The blessing would be found in a person.
Let me explain it this way. In creation, God formed everything. He created man in his image and we lived in perfect love and peace relationally with God. Then, in Adam's fall, man's sin separated us from God. Our perfect relational communion was broken and the Bible says God's wages -- the cost -- of our sin was death. A debt had to be paid for this sin.
But instead of us paying the penalty, God himself paid it through the death of his son, Jesus. And through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God extends to us an invitation to accept His free gift of grace to be redeemed from our sins and our old way of life and to live in peace and freedom with Him again.
When God covenanted with Abram to bless the nations of the earth through his family line in Genesis 12, the blessing that God promised was Jesus!
So when we live in a rhythm of blessing towards others, it's because we've received the greatest blessing of all: forgiveness of sins, redemption of a broken life, and reconciliation with God. We serve others and extend blessing others because we've been blessed greatly through the love and grace extended to us in Jesus.
Jesus is the blessing so that you can be a blessing. That is the impulse for the rhythm of blessing.
Blessing others starts with Jesus. Receive his blessing of grace and forgiveness in your life. That is where the rhythm of blessing others inaugurates and flows from. Then, spend your life on the interest of others. It's an account that won't run dry.
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