Thursday, March 15, 2012

Exorcising the Self-Seeker

9-1-1 Memorial, New York City
The prayer that is most often on my heart in these days is this: "God, grow your love in me so that I will love others as you do." To love as Christ loved and still loves is to be a free person. Only a free person could hang on the cross, view his tormentors, and say "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they do." Only a free person could view screwed-up people like us with compassion, as sheep without a shepherd.

This morning I'm reading out of Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion, by Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe. Foster and Beebe cite 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and then reverse it to make a point about love. The text says:

  • Love is patient.
  • Love is kind.
  • Love does not envy.
  • Love does not boast.
  • Love is not proud.
  • Love does not dishonor others.
  • Love is not self-seeking.
  • Love is not easily angered.
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs.
  • Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
  • Love always protects.
  • Love always trusts.
  • Love always hopes.
  • Love always perseveres.
Now observe what happens when we substitute "a self-centered person" for "love" and reverse the action.

  • A self-centered person is not patient.
  • A self-centered person is not kind.
  • A self-centered person is envious.
  • A self-centered person is boastful.
  • A self-centered person is arrogant.
  • A self-centered person is rude.
  • A self-centered person insists on his or her own way.
  • A self-centered person rejoices in wrongdoing.
  • A self-centered person does not rejoice in truth.
  • A self-centered person does not believe anything.
  • A self-centered person does not hope in anything.
  • A self-centered person does not endure anything.
  • A self-centered person always fails.
Foster and Beebe write: "What a dramatic contrast! This inversion simply yet dramatically illustrates that God's agape love is beyond any capacity we possess as humans. We cannot on our own sustain the kind of love that originates in God alone." (18)

My failure to love others as Christ loves reveals the self-seeker in me. I'm praying for its exorcism, and belieiving that God can accomplish in me what I cannot do on my own.