Lately, I’ve noticed churches promoting the idea that we live for each other; that we are given our gifts because we are meant to encourage people with them. There’s truth to this (1 Peter 4:10) but using our gifts for the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ is not the foundation of our faith. Some say we’re supposed to want for others so they might be content, but the groundwork for Christianity is not simply to put others’ needs before our own. It’s to love God, even before our friends and ourselves. If this sounds off-putting, then you know that it’s probably because there’s a reality to this statement. Living in a humanitarian culture, it used to sound a little strange to me, too.
Everything is meant to be done through our love for Him. There have been times when I’ve become exhausted because my care for others was rooted in a self-reliant attitude. We act independent as if we’re trying to prove something to ourselves. (I wonder why we would need to prove to ourselves so often that we’re self-reliant?) Not that caring for others through Christ wouldn’t wear on us, but when we have God in mind and in heart, we are given a peace in Him.
Praising those around us is not the fundamental way to praise Him. Helping a friend move from an apartment to a house or keeping a person in prayer isn’t entirely for that person.
It’s for God. Not only is it for Him, but it is because of Him.
He wants us to want the same as He does, and this is where humanitarian Christianity tends to become confused. It says to act for others, rather than acting for Him. It’s difficult for us to set this in our minds and live by it. We’re used to thoughtless care, and we’re told that’s what we should aspire to. This is a hollow love that compliments who we are, instead of a passionate love that recognizes who God is.
Peter didn’t shout, “For Lucy, Susan, and Edmund!” at the beginning of the battle against the White Witch’s army. He fought in Aslan’s name, because Aslan was the king, and Narnia was under his protection. It was for the good of his creatures, not Peter’s brother and sisters.
I realize most that we live for Him when marriage and family is brought up in the Bible. The purpose is to grow His Kingdom, because He wants us to know Him. Being able to have a family is a gift, but the real reason we can have all that we have is to glorify Him. How could something ever be good for us if it is not first good for Him?
We are given gifts to serve Him. We misuse them, as He knows we will, but God gives them to us anyway. It’s grace upon grace.
To want what God wants demands our feelings and biased interpretations to be put away. God commands us to live as the new self for Him, instead of the old self for us. He doesn’t only tell us to put what we want for ourselves to the side, but sometimes what we want for others. A lot of the time, it is only God who can give others what they need, and not us. When we realize we can’t live as self-dependent people in caring for others, we’re humbled by His care for us. Encouraging and loving on those we care for isn’t the purpose of our lives. It’s to glorify Him.
It’s easier to understand this relationship of sacrifice when you think of a romance. When seeing that we should desire what He desires instead of what we want, pity is pointless. Some people might feel sorry for somebody if they didn’t pursue a relationship with someone they liked because this other person was without Christ. To understand the true act of love it would be for someone to put God before themselves, it would be admired, not pitied.
God asks for us to give up what takes us from Him, because He wants to love us, and for us to love Him. No one would pity a husband for giving up something that distracts him from his wife, for his wife.
“Don’t get in touch with your feelings, submit radically to God, and do what is right no matter what. Put your love life on the altar and keep it there until God takes it off. Suffering is normal. Have you no scars, no wounds, with Jesus on the Calvary road?” -John Piper
Wanting what He wants goes above everything we could ever desire, whether it be rooted in our love for someone, or if it’s something that’s wanted for us by another.
My Dad would talk about “tough love” when I was younger, as being the type of care that a parent has in disciplining their child. “Tough love” is a good way to describe God’s sovereignty.
The lyrics of a song called Gold In Them Hills say, “Sometimes it’s a case of cruel to be kind.”
If God gave us what we wanted, it would often worsen us. We would lean on temporary things, and reduce our satisfactions to things below us rather than that which is above. But He wants what is best for us, even if He pains for us as we endure suffering that brings us closer to Him. It’s grace.
“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if bad, because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” -C. S. Lewis
Our Creator is making us better in His image. He’s letting us remember where we are, what’s to come, and who He is. When He does give us what we ask for, we praise Him. When He gives us what He wants, we have even more reason to be thankful.
“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” (Mark 14:35-36)