Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Ego (Page 3 of 3)

Love and need

“I love you ‘cos I need to, not because I need you. I love you ‘cos I understand that God has given me your hand”U2, Luminous Times

I was walking through the café at work the other day and heard this song playing over the airwaves. The next line of the song says “hold on to love”. Love is the only force that triumphs over anything. It often comes across as weakness but it succeeds where others perpetually fail.

Much of what we call love though is really an emotional neediness which comes across as being nice, but is actually designed to protect us from rejection. I know this because I do it all the time. As I realise this more I realise how committed I am to not experiencing the pain of someone not loving me in return. My good deeds are often cloaked in the convincing veneer of niceness. And I am further blinded to this when people feed back to me about how nice I have been to them.

True love comes out of a deep conviction that love does indeed transform an enemy into a friend, as Abraham Lincoln said so long ago. It comes out of a deep conviction that love is the most powerful force in the universe. That’s why the words of this song are so powerful.

The paradox of true love though is that there is a genuine neediness about it. True love loves because of a human need to live this way; it is the way we are wired. At the same time, true love does not need the other in a negative self-protective way to boost its own ego or identity. It is free of all that; it is free to truly love the other no matter the response. If the response is hatred, true love continues to love; if the response is indifference or apathy, true love continues to love; and if the response is love reciprocated, true love still continues to love.

As I write I am reminded of two famous people who both talked and walked this attitude in their lives. I speak of course of Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Dr King talked often of the power of redemptive, suffering love, and Mother Teresa has the following words attributed to her, which were apparently written on the wall of her home for children in Kolkata, India. Even if they were not written by her, they fully encapsulate the life she lived:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Hold on to love. Cultivate it, learn it, and most of all, ask God for it, because we simply don’t have in us the capacity to live a life of love without the Spirit of Jesus living in us and guiding us. He will redeem the ugliness of our self-protective neediness into a love that only the Divine can empower us with.

Marching on our knees

I always remember a sermon given by John Smith in the early 1990s in which he talked about the essence of the Christian faith. In decrying the attitude of the strutting, egoistic rock star, he made a comment that has stuck with me. He said that Christianity doesn’t strut – it marches on its knees.

Photo by Leonardo FalaschiniThe journey of following Jesus is completely counter to the culture in which we find ourselves today. In a world where we are told to look out for number one, Jesus says ‘surrender’. The call of Jesus is to run up the white flag. Many misunderstand that command as a call to weakness and letting yourself be walked all over. But it is far from that. It is a walk of humility, a walk, which I have said elsewhere, is nothing less than a facing of reality.

At church a few weeks ago, the song leader invited us to kneel for a song which spoke of surrender. So most of us knelt down as we sang the next song. This simple action changed my whole attitude in the singing of that song. All of a sudden I was in an attitude of genuine worship. For the first time in many many years, I sang with my hands open and my eyes closed. In that place I was no longer just singing, I was praising, lifting God up. And I was offering myself back to God to do with me as He wills. Kneeling during that song helped me to have an attitude of submission to my God. It also made me see how much I demand my own way – how unsurrendered I am most of the time. It was a real eye-opener and something for which I am thankful.

Gifts, motives & ego

A million young poets screaming out their words, to a world full of people just living to be heard…maybe some day those words will be heard.

These words of John Mellencamp from his classic Lonesome Jubilee album are the cry of a generation of bloggers, twitters and citizen journalists. Everyone wants everyone to read their piece, their opinion, their take on the world. And the best way to do this is to promote yourself to get the most readers possible. It’s a ‘look at me…pleeease!’ world, and we all fall for it. Insecurity abounds as we clamour over each other for the affection of the masses.

Mark Sayers has written a post about his self-promotion conundrum. I too struggle with this tempation. I struggle with the fantasy of having millions reading this website and marveling at what a brilliant writer I am. My ego gets in the way of a simple desire to communicate what I think is some life to a world that is dying.

But then I look at the Gospels, and I see that Jesus never promoted himself. He never said “I’m preaching at the temple tonight. Come along and hear me”. People came to him. The common people heard him gladly. As one of the characters in Ben Hur said, “He speaks words of life”.

Jesus’ motive was always to do what was right. My pastor has said that we have nothing we have not been given. Everyone has a gift. We are all equal. What we have are gifts that have been given to us. So no one is better than anyone else. That means my gift is not to be used for my ego, as if it is something I have developed from scratch all by myself. It is a gift. I have done nothing to earn it. It has been given to me by God to be used for God.

Therefore, if it is a gift, I need to use it, to consider it a ministry. In my case, I feel strongly that the world needs to know the true message of Jesus. This website is a humble attempt to do this. But I need to constantly examine my motives. If I am doing this for my own ego I may as well stop now, but if I am doing it for the kingdom, then it is life-giving.

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