Jump Start # 2236
Romans 15:2 “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.”
Putting the other guy first, seems more than just a nice thing that our moms would tell us, it has a Biblical ring to it. Earlier in Romans Paul said, “give preference to one another in honor.” In Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”
Years ago, I heard a comedian outline this journey society has taken to be so absorbed with self. It was illustrated through the titles of magazines. First, there was LIFE magazine. Life includes all living things. Then there was PEOPLE magazine. That focus was not on all life, but just people. Then there was a magazine called US. Us is just us, not everybody. Then there was SELF magazine. It’s about self. I heard that there was a short lived magazine that was called, ME. From Life to Me—that’s the path that culture has taken.
And, this obsession with self, has gotten to a point that Christmas songs and holiday classics, such as Rudolph, are being shelved because someone felt that they were offensive. The pressure to please everyone will lead to the elimination of much of our language. Just think about something simple such as vanilla ice cream. The very word “vanilla” offends some. Then call it “white” ice cream, because that’s the color of it. Can’t do that, because that will offend some. Then call it “Plain” because it has nothing else in it. But the word “plain” will offend some. What are we left to call it?
I grew up as a red headed, glasses wearing boy. Yeah I got teased and called all kinds of names, but that didn’t lead me to shooting up schools, taking drugs and dropping out of life. Was it offensive? It’s what kids did. Was it nice? Probably not. Did it make me want to switch schools or run-a-way? No. That wasn’t going to happen. You might disagree, but I feel like I turned out to be fairly normal.
This self-centered thinking, you have to change because I don’t like what you are doing, misses the direction of these opening verses. God wants us to be thinking of others and not ourselves. The first step in discipleship is to “deny yourself.” The world doesn’t follow Christ, and selfishness and the worship of self is where a life without Christ leads to. Hurt feelings forces others to have to walk on egg shells, so fearful of offending others that nothing gets accomplished.
This eventually will trickle into the church. All things in life seem to do that, after a while. There will be some who want to rip out songs from the song books because they find a line that seems offensive to them. There will be topics that preachers will be scolded for preaching, because some will feel offended by that. There will be some who carry a red card, like in soccer, in their pocket and they will pull it out at every opportunity to let the eldership and the church know that they have been offended. And, if enough were to get their way, they’d certainly try to change the message because it will offend them.
Here are some things from all of this:
First, we must teach discipleship, and not baptism and getting into the church. Discipleship means putting Christ first and denying yourself. That will be hard for some. It will be a major change for some. In a selfie world that loves itself, putting others and especially Christ, before yourself is something radically different and new. It means not always having my way. It means being a team player. It means learning to subject myself to others. It means not pouting because I did not get my way. All of this leads to the principle and concept of crucifying yourself. When Paul said in Galatians, “It is no longer I who live…” what did that mean? The word “I” no longer existed for Paul. He no longer would say, “I want to do this?” Nor, “I want to have things this way.” I, no longer existed. It became Christ and it became we. Until we get this principle taught and understood, folks will continually drop out and run to churches that love to worship self. They will laugh. They will have a good time. They will dance, sing and bow down to the image of self. Deny yourself and crucify yourself are foundational elements of our faith.
Second, being pricked in the heart or cut to the quick, as stated in Acts, stings and hurts. Getting your toes stepped on hurts. If the message of God doesn’t afflict me, then I will never change. There will be sermons, classes and even songs, that remind me that I need to change. I need to step it up for the Lord. I need to do what is right. The words that young Timothy was to follow in his preaching was to reprove, rebuke and exhort. Boy, that wouldn’t fly in many circles today. That offends. Yep, it sure does. That makes me sad. Well, do right and you won’t be sad. That makes me look bad. Well, you are. Get to Christ, and you’ll be holy. Great attempts are being made by the community that has just enough knowledge to be dangerous, to change the gospel message. Bold statements such as, “Jesus never condemned homosexuality,” shows ignorance of Scriptures, inspiration and an understanding of holiness and righteousness. Because things are legal doesn’t mean that they are right and it especially doesn’t mean that they are Biblically true. God’s message hurts. If we were doing everything right, there wouldn’t be a need for the Gospel message. The message isn’t about social injustice, but about sinful people becoming righteous through Jesus Christ.
Third, we must be kind but there comes a time when lines must be drawn. Someone says, “that offends me.” Don’t immediately think, we have to change everything to make that person happy and to keep them around. Selfish people don’t stay around. They float from this fad to that fad, always looking for what self wants. That offends me, someone says. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Maybe you need to look at why you are offended. Maybe, just maybe, rather than forcing others to change to please you, you need to change yourself. Maybe you are just a bit sensitive. Maybe you have an agenda. Maybe you just need to take a chill pill. Maybe you just need to breath. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop thinking so much about yourself and learn to be a team player in life.
I read the headlines of a report that said Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was homophobic. What? I didn’t read anymore. This obviously comes from someone who feels like they are on the island of misfits toys. The toys malfunctioned. Implying that they were gay and excluded from society is reading way too much into the story. People like to do that. I had a sixth grade teacher like that. She missed the hippie movement and I believe was waiting for it to start up again. We listened to the song, “Bridge over trouble waters,” a zillion times. I hate that song today. We were to write an essay about it. I wrote about a thunderstorm and rapid waters flowing underneath a bridge. She didn’t like my essay. I didn’t explore the writers intentions and feelings. A person can read too much into all kinds of things. I read a story where the author claimed that Abraham Lincoln was gay because he slept in the same bed with another man. He failed to tell his readers that was common back then because most folks were poor and not everyone had their own beds. Many grew up having to sleep with a brother or sister in the same bed. That was a common practice. When you add the element of traveling and stopping at an inn and it’s all filled for the night except for one bed and two people, you share a bed. The author never mentioned those things. He read into the story just what he wanted to. Selfish people will do that. They will paint things just to look the way that they want them to look. They are not interested in truth, but in self. Unless the writer tells you, you don’t know what his feelings are. The Beatles faced this with their critics. Every line of every song was studied and all kinds of ideas were assumed. Some were making wild conclusions. They produced the song, “I am the Walrus.” It was a song that was ridiculous. It meant nothing. That was their point.
Christians are not selfish. Put others first. Care about others. Serve others. Crucify self. Stop using the word “I” so much. Be like Christ.
It’s tough out there, but God expects us to be His people!