Monday, February 29, 2016

Should you desire more for yourself?

Lewis looking at the inspiring scenery out his window
at The Kilns in 1963.  (Photo by permission of Walter Hooper)
If we have read the New Testament, we know that Christians are not to be selfish, i.e. self-seeking, putting one's self above others.  The example that Jesus gives his followers is one of self-sacrifice, of giving up of one's self for the sake of others. Yet he tells us in Mark 8 to follow him that we might save ourselves:

34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

C. S. Lewis, in his sermon The Weight of Glory, brings up the point that this does seem rather mercenary or self-seeking.  We are to follow Jesus to save ourselves; not other people or some general idea of "humanity," but our own necks.  Is this being "selfish?"

I love how Lewis can turn things on their own heads.  His answer is that not only is this not selfish, we don't desire enough for ourselves!  How can he say this?

He has his own reasons, but let's look at it this way.

First of all, though fallen, we are still God's "good" creatures.  Out of respect for the image of God in other people, we recognize that we should be good to them.  But you and I are in God's image as well.  If it makes sense to be good to other people because they still have God's image, then it makes sense to be good to ourselves. 

It is always a good thing to do good to what is good.  God himself seeks his own good, because he is good, and it's a good thing to seek the benefit of what is good.  God is good to himself and he calls us to be good to ourselves by following his Son.

Our problem, of course, is our fallenness.  That's where the cross comes in.  The best thing we can do for ourselves initially is to die to our sinful selfishness, to die to a life of self-seeking in rebellion against God's goodness.  We then make this denial a daily practice - the daily cross.  But once we do that, we can go on - forever! - doing good for ourselves by growing in the grace and knowledge and love and everything else that is so wonderful about Christ.

So desire something absolutely amazing for yourself: lose your life so you can save your life and live forever, sharing in the glory of God! 

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