When people hear about Christianity it can so often sound like all it wants to do is ruin your life.
After all Christianity says things like that you should deny yourself, I mean who likes doing that? It says you should take up your cross, that doesn't sound like fun. Then add into that some of Christianity's moral teaching. The other week I was teaching about lust and anger and in a culture where these are a normal part of life it can feel like Christianity is always saying no.
At the heart of Christianity is, however, an other person focus. It centres on a God who gives his life for other people and then it calls on people to be like him. We are to have an other person focus. Rather than selfishly seeking what we want all the time we are to look to other people and how we can bless them. So we are to be generous with our money. Instead of thinking 'What can I buy with this' we are to think how can I bless others with this. We are to be people who are ready to forgive, ready to overlook wrong done against us. We are to be loving and kind and patient. Our focus should be how can I make this a better place to work or a better place to live. We are to be outward looking people. This can all sound like rather hard work and not at all fun.
But that is because we have failed to understand one of the central messages of Christianity
'It is more blessed to give than to receive'
Until we really believe this then Christianity will sound unappealing and like a chore but without this truth Christianity makes no sense.
So for example the Bible presents a God who lives for his own pleasure and joy. A God who lives to bring glory to himself. This can sound like a nasty, grabbing, selfish God. Until you understand that God understands it is more blessed to give than to receive. So God experiences this pleasure and joy through sacrificially giving himself on the cross to rescue a people who have rejected him. The Father experiences this joy through making much of the Son and the Son experiences this through glorifying the Father. So is God obsessed with his own good or others? Well both because through selfless acts of sacrificial love he experiences the joy and pleasure of those acts.
It is for this reason that Jesus says 'whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.' It is only when we cease to be obsessed by getting what we want that we can really find it. At some point most of us have experienced the deep joy and satisfaction we feel from sacrificially, with no thought of reward, selflessly acting for the good of someone else. Often these are some of our most memorable joys. You see it is as we become willing to lose our lives for others that we really find life. It is more blessed to give than to receive is not just a twee piece of advice but rather the way God has wired the world as a reflection of his character
Therefore selflessness represents the single most selfish thing you can do.
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