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Selfless love

April 7, 2014 No Comment
Rev. Don Schiemann

Rev. Don Schiemann

by Don Schiemann

The Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year award for 2013 goes to the word “selfie.” The official definition given by Oxford is: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

There is a lot of focus on self these days. Looking out for number one can range from insisting on having “me time” all the way to the 18 year-old girl in New Jersey who sued her parents because she felt they owed her a weekly $650 living allowance as well as payment for her college tuition.

Even noble-sounding acts can be used for the sake of self. I remember talking to someone who went to Mexico with several other people to help build an orphanage. Sounds selfless, right? When I asked her why she did it, she replied, “Because it made me feel good.”

We can trace this all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Eve was tempted to embrace the notion that she could become like God.  All she had to do was to eat the forbidden fruit. In so doing, she dethroned God and enthroned herself. Is it any wonder that when God gave the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, the very first one was “You shall have no other gods before Me”?

Contrast this with the words of Jesus: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The term “Son of Man” is used extensively throughout the Gospels and does not simply mean that Jesus had a human nature. It is also a reference to Daniel 7:13-14—a reference which essentially identifies Him as God.

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Now think about this for a moment. God, to whom belong all authority, glory, and dominion, took on human flesh not to be served, but to serve and to give His holy and perfect life as a ransom to rescue us. St. Paul explained it this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

During the season of Lent, we focus on God’s sacrificial love for us. He suffered, bled and died for people who inherited the fallen, self-focused nature of our first parents, Adam and Eve. He sacrificed Himself for the lost—for you and me. As Scripture says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Of course, it doesn’t end there. In baptism, we have been joined with Christ both at the cross and at the empty tomb. In Christ, the old selfish nature is crucified and we arise to a newness of life where we are dead to sin but alive to God. The Bible says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”  (Ephesians 4:22-24).

It is in the gift of His Son that we see the greatest act of selflessness—not simply as an example, but as God’s way to reconcile us to Him. Through the power of the cross, the old self is dethroned and Christ is all in all. It is by His grace at work in us that we can follow Christ in loving Him and others selflessly.

All that I am and love most dearly
Receive it all, O Lord, from me.
Let me confess my faith sincerely;
Help me your faithful child to be!
Let nothing that I am or own
Serve any will but Yours alone. (LSB 590, v.4)


Rev. Don Schiemann is President of the Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church–Canada.

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