I’m learning that this life as a Christian will make you go crazy and make you feel in bondage if you only live by your own understanding of what this life—His way—His words–really means. Isn’t it amazing that we read a verse like “Be perfect as I am perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and have the audacity to think that Christ is really calling us to be without sin? And so we beat ourselves up when we do and fall into this vicious cycle of self-condemnation which eventually results in never really experiencing the freedom of God’s love, grace and mercy. Bondage.
You know what’s another verse that we have misinterpreted that has kept us in bondage? “Do not think more highly of yourselves than you ought to…” (Romans 12:3) Many of us have interpreted that to mean—don’t think of yourself at all. Always give yourself to the needs of others. After all, that’s humility right? After all, God will think that you are more committed to Him because you are always thinking about others. You have to show that you’re not selfish. And all the while, you’ve lost yourself. You have no time for yourself. You’ve exhausted yourself mentally, physically and spiritually. Staying up to pray and read His word always ends up with you staring at the back of your eyelids. And forget trying to wake up early in the morning to spend time—you have no energy. Ministry has gotten in the way of nurturing yourself and nurturing your relationship with God. All because you think you are selfish if you don’t.
I’ve been there. Still haven’t completely made it out but here is what God is teaching me or rather, I’m beginning to finally learn and accept.
Think of yourself. Care for yourself. Treat yourself. Thinking about yourself is NOT selfishness. I’m learning that it doesn’t make me selfish because I think about how something would benefit me before I do it. Don’t think you’re selfish because you are guarding your heart and mind in making decisions that involve others as well.
This is selfishness – when we only consider ourselves and not consider what our behavior may do to another person. When we expect others to give themselves up and do what we want them to do rather than do what is best for them. When we are always pointing everything back to ourselves rather than listening to what others are saying. When we intentionally harm others for our benefit.
We are being self-responsible and NOT selfish when we do what brings us joy without causing harm to another person. We are being self-caring and NOT selfish when we support our own highest good even when someone wants us to do something. We are being self-responsible and NOT selfish when we are considerate of others wants and needs without giving ourselves up.
I believe the scripture says “do not think more highly of yourselves” so that we never underestimate the experiences and needs of others because we believe ours is more right or more important. Selfishness is a form of self-preservation. We act out of selfishness when we feel like we are being threatened by others. Thinking about yourself and taking care of yourself, when we are in Christ, is not to preserve yourself but in reality, it’s to also think about others because it’s then that we will be able to fully extend our best selves to the needs of others.
After all, God would not say to love your neighbor AS you love yourself if He didn’t understand that loving and thinking about ourselves makes the way we love others more effective.
I pray someone is freed today from the bondage and deception of feeling selfish being you want to think of and about yourself. Nurture your mind, body and spirit so that you don’t quench what the Holy Spirit wants to do through you.
Think and love yourselves so that you can love and serve others!
Peace, love, and blessings,