Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Week Twenty-Three - The Evil I

            Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India who wrote many books, but one that keeps circulating is called If.  Short and sweet by name, and short and sweet by nature, her book points the reader to think about the consequences of attitudes and decisions not based on Calvary love.  My use of the word sweet is a probably a poor definition.  I’d encourage you to get a copy and see for yourself because some of her ifs are very poignant and direct.
            One of them that caught my attention was “If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have a heart of leisure from myself, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” (p 38)
            Scripture began to flood my heart as I pondered her thought.  We are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).  We are called to deny self (Mark 8:34).  We are to think others are more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Sadly, most of our thoughts revolve around what we think we need, deserve, plan to do, what others think about us, what we look like, wish for or want.
            Be honest.  Do you wake up each morning wondering if your neighbor had a good night’s sleep?  Do you direct your day’s plans according to what will be best for the other people on their way to work?  Or do you start with thinking about getting yourself out of bed, dressed, fed, and to the workplace without any thought of others who are doing the same?  I am fairly confident that most of us take care of self first.
            Do you weigh up decisions based on the best outcome for all concerned or what will benefit you?  Do you take the larger slice of cake?  Do you serve yourself first?  Do you resist helping others because it might cost you something or take your valuable time? Do you find yourself getting angry when other’s needs get in your way?   Do you resent authority?  Do you think only of yourself?
            This trait of “me first” seems over prevalent today but if Amy Carmichael, way back in the 1800’s, was impressed to notice, and the Bible makes note of it too, then narcissism is a sinful trait to be repented.  There is no excuse for selfish behaviour.  Common courtesy still has its place.
            Elizabeth Elliot, in her devotion book, Keep a Quiet Heart, speaks of teaching self-denial to our children. “The earlier the parents begin to make the laws of order and beauty and quiet comprehensible to their children, the sooner they will acquire good, strong notions of what is so basic to real godliness: self-denial.  A Christian home should be a place of peace, and there is no peace where there is no self-denial. (p 250)
So, true.  People who demand are taxing. People who give are a joy.  People who only think of themselves cannot be trusted.  They are looking out for self, and you are not in their equation. Self-focus causes short tempers, resentment in relationships, and does not make for a peaceful home or life.
            God’s way is different.  Give and it shall be given unto you (Luke 6:8).  Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought (Romans 12:3). Condescend (Romans 12:16).  Do you know what condescend means? It means to come down off your self-appointed perch to do a service for someone else even if they don’t deserve it or haven’t earned it.  It is to humble yourself to meet the need of another regardless of rank.  Sounds like what Christ did for us, huh?
            He took on the form of a servant; made Himself of no reputation that He might save us. By loving others so much that He gave it all, He becomes our prime example of unselfish behaviour.
            Let’s not stop there.  The Bible goes on to instruct us to share what we have with those in need (Hebrews 13:6). We are to look for opportunities to help others, not for gain, but to be a blessing (Philippians 2:4).  Oh, many more instructions in God’s word call us to share Calvary love by the way we live, and all of them warn us to watch out for the evil “I.” 

Gail Gritts
Beside the Well

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