The Most Painful Disease?
What do you think is the most painful disease known to man? Some may say it’s gout. Others may say it’s kidney stones. Still, others may say, though it’s not a disease, the birth pang. Which one is it? One person was honest enough to acknowledge, “The most painful disease is my sickness.” Isn’t that so true? We care more about our headache than someone else’s cancer.
We can say some measure of selfishness is necessary for our survival. There may even be some “higher” forms of selfishness (our desire for fulfillment or self-actualization), which may express themselves in altruism. But what dominates our daily life, unfortunately, is the baser forms of selfishness, expressed in many harmful ways, both obvious and subtle.
Nothing destroys a relationship like selfishness. Even if it has not totally destroyed a relationship already, it has most likely rendered the relationship quite dysfunctional—or, at least, not as fulfilling as it should be.
Charis Ruth, who remarried her ex-husband, reflected on why their marriage failed the first time: “I felt like I knew everything I had to know about him, but what I failed to accept was his individuality. At the end of the day, he wasn't me and he'd never be. I assumed that he should love what I loved, like what I liked, do what I did, and basically personify everything that was me.” If that’s not selfishness, what is? Can any relationship survive such an attitude? But who of us is not guilty of that? Why do you want to get married or make friends? Isn’t it because you hope it will make you happy or meet your needs? If you viewed the goal of marriage as making your spouse happy, the potential mate you look for may be a very different type of person. Instead of marrying up, you may try to marry down.
Selfishness is wanting everything to revolve around oneself. So, two persons coming together in a relationship is like two solar systems coming into contact. Each wants the other to revolve around him. Power struggle and conflicts ensue. Selfishness is universal. That’s why relationships are so hard. We know what the solution seems obvious—the Golden Rule: "Do for others as you would have them do for you."
But is the Golden Rule enough? It’s one thing to know it; it is another to practice it. Our selfishness militates against it—“Why should my life revolve around yours? What makes you more important than I?” It may work if everyone else practices it, too. But will that ever happen? So, even when we dare to practice it, there’s that nagging fear of being taken advantage of.
If we find it difficult to resolve these issues, it’s because an important piece of the puzzle is missing—an Absolute Being, around whom everything should revolve in its respective orbit. This is God’s world because He made it. He is the center and everything is designed to revolve around Him! If we try to make ourselves the center, we will soon find ourselves alone in the dark dungeon of frustration and resentment, banging our heads against the resistance of other selfish humans, who want us to do their bidding!
Only the Absolute Being has the right to be self-centered. This shouldn’t surprise us. What is morality? It is to seek the highest good in all circum-stances. So, Christianity claims that man’s chief aim is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #1) because God is the Absolute Good. Then, what should be the chief aim of God’s existence? As John Piper put it, it is to glorify Himself and enjoy Himself forever. If goodness is to seek the highest good, God is morally obligated to seek His glory above all because He is the Ultimate Good.
The good news is that God intends to glorify Himself by saving sinners through His grace. While He does all things “to the praise of His glory,” He delights to do so especially “to the praise of His glorious grace!”
Michael Horton describes Christian life/worship in a striking way—an invitation to die—to die to our story, in which we are the main actor—so we can take part in God’s story, in which God is the Main Actor. Our story apart from God is a tragedy, which eventually ends in death and loss of every-thing. God’s story is about His glorious redemption of His people. This story is ultimately about God—but it is about God saving us! How did God save us? He saved us through Jesus Christ, who took the sickness of our soul and died in our place to pay the penalty of our sin. And in exchange, He gave us His righteousness, victory, honor, inheritance, and eternal life! His selfless, self-giving love is the solution to our selfishness. Come to Christ and find your self filled by the wondrous love of Jesus Christ to overflowing, self-giving abundance!