There are many qualities of a Christian that tend to be misunderstood… by both Christians and non-Christians alike. One of those is our call to be selfless. First, let’s define it…
“Jesus had much to say about selflessness during His earthly ministry. In the Sermon on the Mount, He goes beyond what some may think of as selflessness—helping a friend, ministering to a spouse, caring for an ill child, etc. Jesus extends selflessness far beyond normal expectations—we are to love our enemies, even, and pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:44). Jesus taught that it’s easy to love a friend or a spouse—even unbelievers do that (Matthew 5:47). The Christian is expected to love the unlovable, because this is how we become more like God, who gives blessings to everyone (Matthew 5:45). It’s a difficult thing to lay aside hurt feelings and wounded hearts, but that’s part of being selfless.
“As in so many areas, Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness. In coming into this world, “he made himself nothing” and took upon Himself “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Now, as followers of Christ, we are to “have the same mindset” (Philippians 2:5). Jesus came not for His own benefit but for ours. He came to minister to us and die for us: “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).”
(Read the full article here.)
There’s a lot to be said for being selfless. But I believe we must learn to be much more selfish.
In particular, being selfish with your faith. I don’t mean be selfish by withholding your faith from other people. Rather, to be selfish with the time you spend investing in your faith.
At one time, I took pride in being a Yes Man. (See above.) I was gung ho, ready, and eager for any adventure to be experienced or aid to be lent. I was giving myself over to opportunities and other people all the time. Was I leading a full life? In one sense, yes. But what I was falling victim to was a vast overextending of myself, and leaving God out of the picture. I believe in taking care of “in house” issues before outsourcing too much aid, lest both parties crumble. But more importantly, I’ve come to discover an internal frontier which needs all the aid it can get.
I’ve come to understand recently that being a Christian is not a passive role. Now, doing more good works will not give you a better seat in heaven. We are saved by Grace through faith alone. But faith without works is indeed dead. Faith inspires works. And works can likewise inspire faith. But it’s easy to get bogged down by the repetitive regulations. I’ve been told a million times – maybe not, but many, many times… Go to church. Say your prayers. Read the Bible. There was a great weight of legalism; a feeling of unauthentic repetition. In water polo training we called it “going through the motions”. And doing it all solely for the sake of tradition. Or someone else’s approval, like that of my parents.
Think of it this way… Do you feel obligated to see your best friend? Is it a chore to call them? Do you hate them for calling you out when you’re acting out of line? (Maybe in the moment, but you love them for it! At least you should.) In this same way, we can look at church as an opportunity rather than an obligation. Honestly, I don’t feel like going to church every Sunday. A part of me would rather not wake up at 6am every Wednesday to meet with my men’s small group. There will be times when you’re resistant because you think the time may be given to something more critical in your life. Or… simply… you’d just don’t feel like it. Truth is, there is nothing more critical than your spirit. Take care of it, and it will take care of you. Maybe not in the way you want, expect, or hope, but in the way that you actually need.
Our relationship with our Father, our pursuit of Him and His knowledge is the single most important journey of our lives. It’s the foundation, the cornerstone, the groundwork for everything in life. The sad part is that so many people view Christianity and “being a good little Christian” as extremely confining and oppressive. It hinders and censors. I get how it could seem that way, or how it might have been explained or demonstrated to you in such a way. What greater turn off for artists or those who fear the label of ignorant?
The thing is, Christianity is the ultimate freedom. Have you ever realized how many negative thoughts you have towards others on a daily basis? About yourself? Have you ever held onto guilt with such weight you feel like you’re walking on your knees? Have you ever been consumed with the seemingly better lives of others, wishing you were anyone but yourself? Talk about confinement, oppression, hindrance, and censorship. Christianity doesn’t stop at Law. The Ten Commandments were given to us to show us just how much we fall short of perfection, yes, but we are also given Gospel so that we have every reason to turn back to God who has promised by the death and resurrection of His Son to forgive us for all our flaws.
So how can we be selfish about our faith?
One way is simply to pray more. Upon waking, be thankful for the day ahead. Before bed, be thankful for the day you were given. Before meals, be thankful for having food and the company you may be sharing it with. I used to say a quick, silent prayer when eating with friends so as not to offend anyone. But what I came to realize was that sometimes, I may be sitting with another Christian and may not know it, or they’re not but may want to be included anyway. So I simply ask, “Do you mind if I say a prayer?” Now, I don’t know many people that would say no, but its’ more about the opportunity for them to get involved if they so wish.
Scheduling 15 minutes of reading is another way you can be selfish with God. Ever been invited out but decline because you want to finish catching up on your favorite Netflix show? It’s kinda like that. Take inventory of how you spend your time every day. How much time do you spend at work, eating, doing chores, with friends and family, catching Pokemon, etc? Can you spare 15 minutes? Can you cut 15 minutes away from something else? 10 minutes? 5? But then, what to read? The Bible’s always a recommendation, but without some guidance that can be a tough place to start for some. Perhaps try The Reason for God by Timothy Keller if you’re starting out, just curious, or even in the thick of it. Perhaps drop by a local church and simply ask them where you can start. Ask friends. What you’ll find though is that once you start engaging, the content will find you.
One thing I do these days is I take the first 30 minutes of my morning to read The One Year Chronological Bible, which segments the Bible into 365 chapters in order of earliest story to latest, read and complete the exercises of a chapter of 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry, and then take some time to journal.
I feel like adding a disclaimer…
I’ve been sharing about my faith a lot recently. It used to really intimidate me. “Oh no, I can’t talk about my religion or else people will be turned off by it and I’ll lose fans or friends.” But as I’ve come to put more hours into knowing God, the more confident I feel about who I am, what I believe, and who God is, and I’m no longer afraid to own it. But why share it? Because I would have loved to hear this from someone when I was younger. For those of you who have reached out with your support, thank you so much, and I’m thrilled it’s fed your spirit.
If you think I’m ignant, that’s okay too. You’re in my prayers, and in no belittling way. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re any less of a sinner. That goes for EVERYONE. Yes, even the Pope. He’ll tell you the same thing. If anything, it’s harder because you have to own up to it. But there’s no way you can be forced to believe. You can be reached out to, but what I hope is that you’ll reach back.