I recently read an article on selfishness from an issue of The Journal For Modern Ministry, a subscription I received as a birthday gift last year from a long-time friend. This article by Lou Priolo caught my attention, as selfishness is a sinful trait that marks, invariably, those we love, work with, minister to...and of course, ourselves. In my fight to love those who may act selfishly towards me in my life, I find my own struggle to love borne out of selfishness notwithstanding. Priolo points out that "selfishness is directly related to sinful fear."
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:18
"Fear is the opposite of love," he reminds us, and "love is the opposite of selfishness." Fear of being hurt, rejected, or taken for granted often appears to be sound self-protection in my mind, but in the end, self-preservation often robs me of learning to love as Christ loved, while leading me straight down the slippery path of selfishness. Perhaps you, like me, hardly think of yourself as a selfish person with myriad of ways you serve, host, give, love, and share with others in your life. I'm not discounting those as selfless acts. But when Priolo asks the question "What do your thoughts reveal about you? Are you more of a God-pleaser or a man-pleaser?" Those of us who truly love the Lord can't help but examine our inner beings. We see the areas in our lives where we fail to please God by loving others, especially selfish others. But perhaps, graver still, we substitute the pleasure of God with the pleasure of ourselves and we cater to our selfishness.
If you are still with me, it's likely because you've wrestled with these very thoughts. I find that I don't go but a few steps in ministry, motherhood, marriage, friendship, and family before I find myself caught in the same battle between my desire to love those who are selfish, and my own selfishness that keeps me from loving.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
May we be encouraged today to love as Christ, and unto Him alone, leaving behind selfish fears for the love of the great I AM.
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