Value of Values #2 – Selflessness

Author’s Note: In the interest of saving time, I will refrain from the profuse apologies about my long hiatus between posts. I trust those that know me need no explanation, and those that do not have no reason to desire one.

Here on this Silent Saturday, the night of Resurrection Morning 2009, my thoughts have turned again to the values I began to preview in February.  I looked back at my mission statement to see which value I should continue with – whether simply in order of appearance, in strategic order of importance or relevance, or some other method. How appropriate that the next value in numerical order was the one that fits the importance of this weekend in the faith of the friends of the Risen One – Selflessness.

My definition of Selflessness in my mission statement reads:

I will put myself no higher than necessary to achieve the best for someone else.

You may notice the dichotomy of the statement above in relation to the term – self “LESS”.  But those who have tried to live the selfless life can attest to the dual nature of this value.  We all know that the classic idea of selflessness is achieved by abandoning our own needs and wants for the needs of another. But true selflessness can’t be achieved when we are less of the self than we are able to be. Thus all the calls for leaders, ministers, husbands and wives to ‘take care of themselves’, to make sure they attend to their own needs (what may seem ‘selfish’) in order to be able to then supplant those needs to serve others.

We need only look to the life of the Risen One to see this.  Jesus’s purpose was to fulfill the will his Father and serving the lost sheep of Israel. He gave up heaven and royalty beyond all measure to become man – the most selfless act imaginable.  But Jesus also spent 30 years of a 33 year life – that’s 90% – in obscurity ministry wise, in which we can assume he cared  for his immediate family and provided for himself. Was this selfish? Were those moments that Jesus stole away from the people to rest and commune with his Father moments of selfish attention to His own needs? And when He lifted his voice in his final prayers, saying “Glorify thy son,” after all his pronouncements that he did not seek his own glory, was he committing an act of selfishness?(John 17:1)

Of course not.  We understand that the only reason Jesus was able to give himself totally to the Cross was because he was TOTALLY HIMSELF – that is, totally God and totally man.  Anything less would have been not enough to cleanse us by his death and justify us by His resurrection. He had to be everything God had ordained him to be in order to achieve the perfect sacrifice – one that was not for His benefit only, but for the benefit of all mankind. He gave up everything he had – and yet, he had to be everything he was so that he would have everything to give.

In the same way, my sacrifice is not helpful to my loved ones or my sphere of influence if I subscribe to be selfless by ignoring my needs and not becoming all that God has me to be.  In this way, I cheat others out of the blessings I might be able to share.  Instead, I look to see, as Rick Warren might say, what my purpose is, and utilize all the powers I have to become that person.  The difference between the selfish person and the selfless is in the heart and motive of the self.  If I stop there, and only become what I desire because of my own wants, well, that is self-ish.  But if my self is then poured into others at no additional benefit (although we know the benefits are in the continual defining of our servant character), we begin to become the kind of person Jesus was – a person that gives out of a heart of love, that stops noticing the tiny pricks of ego and self-need and is able to ‘lay down his life for a friend’.

In summary, I don’t fear becoming more than what God has me to be, for He would soon cut me down. I would fear, rather, being less than what He raised me to be, for then I can not bring others up.

So, as the celebration of Resurrection Day begins, remember that His selfless act, borne of love for you and me, should motivate us to “press on toward the mark”, knowing that we too can live lives of service to others, having been raised and restored and renewed for that specific purpose.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Eph. 2:10 (KJV)

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