True Christian Community (koinonia) says, "I gladly lay down my rights...for your good."I probably don't have to tell you this, but I'm going to anyway. We are selfish people! Now, before you get offended let me take ownership of my own self-centeredness. We can try to hide behind our "goodness" but deep down if we're willing to be honest with ourselves we have a constant desire to have our needs met, and more often than not that desire comes with an expectation of others to meet our needs.
So here's the rub. When you look at your life and, more specifically, your relationships are you in them primarily for what you can give or what you can get? Now before you too quickly provide the cookie-cutter answer that you know is "right" take a moment to dig a bit deeper to find the real answer. It is my personal belief that if (and it is a big if) we are willing to be honest with ourselves our relationships are usually centered on our needs and desires instead of others. You don't believe me? Here's a quick test. Think back to your past (3) arguments and then answer these questions:
1. What was the argument really about?
2. Did I have expectations of the other person that weren't met?
3. Evaluating the emotions I was feeling at the time, what was the primary emotion behind them?
Again, if we're willing to be honest...I believe our answer to these questions will prove that most of the time it is selfishness that drives the negative interactions we have with others.
For those of you who may still be lost, let me try to make the connection for you. Picture this: a man comes home from work to a house that's less than clean and kids that are going crazy. His wife asks him how his day is and with a short tone of voice he responds, "fine." You see where I'm going with this right? More than likely you've been on one side or the other of these types of interactions a hundred times of more. So why was his response back to his wife, short? Was it because he always talks in one word sentences, or was it because his expectation of a clean and less rambunctious wasn't met? Only he knows the answer to the question, but I'm hoping this analogy helps connect some dots for you.
But for Christians, this way of "doing business" ought not be the case. As Christians, we are not living in relationships built on contracts which say, "if you do this for me then I will do that for you." Instead, we are living in covenantal relationships which say, "I gladly lay down my rights for your good and God's glory." This means that even if others are not meeting our needs, we live in such a way that we strive to bless them and encourage them. This means that even if Christ gave us the freedom and liberty to do certain things (i.e. drink a beer, eat bacon, watch R rated movies or hang out at the beach) if these things cause our brothers or sisters to stumble in the faith, then as a blessing to them...we choose not to partake in these things. It's an intentional effort to live selflessly for the blessing and encouragement of others. This is how Christ lived among his disciples, this is how his disciples and the apostles encouraged the early church to live, and this is how local churches are still called to live, today.
May the words from John Piper and the audio clip from Matt Chandler (below) be the hammer and chisel we need to help us kill the the sin of selfishness that remains in our lives and hearts. May we learn to find joy in living for God's glory and the blessing of others, even at the expense of our own freedoms.
"The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God. All sin comes from a desire to be happy cut off from the glory of God and cut off from the good of others." | John Piper