Christianity is no spectator sport. There’s no sitting on the sidelines while trying to follow Jesus. Once we decide to follow him, Jesus invites us to join him in his mission of loving others sacrificially. Selfless sacrifice is what Jesus would define as “love.” In John 15:13, he tells his disciples,
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Most of us would prefer to keep the idea of “love” as far from sacrifice as possible, where more warm-fuzzies abound and fewer hard choices are made. Unless there’s something to personally gain in exchange, we often withdraw from self-sacrifice. Our natural reflex—if we allow it to rule us—keeps us from engaging Jesus’ mission or becoming more like him.
Instead, we can choose to love like Jesus did and that decision takes some rewiring of our beliefs.
First, we have to confront the main fear underlying our distaste for loving others sacrificially. Yes, it’s generally uncomfortable, but what are we really afraid of risking? What is lost if we choose to love like Jesus?
“If I sacrifice myself to love others, who will take care of me?” a small and fearful voice inside each of us asks. Whether it’s our time, energy, or money, we know that these are limited resources, so a choice to give it away leaves us with petty leftovers—if anything at all. Left to our own devices that small voice will grow until our desire to make sure we’re well fed and taken care of rules every area of our lives.
Is that voice telling us the truth? Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:25 reverses our implicit assumption:
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25
Tightening your grasp around your own resources won’t produce the outcome you desire. Giving your life away by loving others is the only way to receive what God is offering us: a life free from our own self-seeking.
BELIEVING WHAT IS PROMISED
God doesn’t just demand we try harder at being less selfish. He frees us from focusing on ourselves—even how to take care of ourselves. Promises about God’s care for his children abound in the Bible. Here’s one to hold tightly whenever self-focused fear rises and doubt of God’s care looms:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6: 25-33
We won’t let go of the fear that we need to take care of ourselves until we grasp the truth that God does care and will care for us. We will be free to lose our lives once we trust the one who has promised us eternal life.