A Challenge to Self-Centred Christianity

Christianity is, in the first place, a personal relationship with God. We must be saved, not in a group, but alone. This individual pursuit of being right with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ought to be the great goal of our lives because, if we fail in it, we perish eternally. In this pursuit, then, we ought to be self-centred. We cannot afford to put anything or anyone before that all-important goal.

Yet, once saved, the Christian is not to be self-centred. An emphasis on personal spiritual needs, of course, continues. However, the focus radically broadens to embrace the needs of others - temporal and spiritual - in obedience to the full teaching of Scripture.

The nature of the Christian life, as perfectly exemplified by the Lord Jesus Christ, is one of selflessness rather than selfishness, of self-giving rather than self-obsessing, of self-denial rather than self-gratification, and of bearing crosses rather than securing comforts.

Peter reminds us that Christ's life was an example for us, 'that [we] should follow his steps.' (1 Peter 2:21) The Apostle Paul, too, called the Christians in Philippi to adopt the mind of Christ by 'looking out not only for [their] own interests, but also for the interests of others.' (Philippians 2:4) Paul, himself, adorned this posture of humble selflessness by 'not seeking [his] own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.' (1 Corinthians 10:33) The salvation and good of others far outweighed his own gain.

We, too, as Christians in the 21st century, are to be selfless rather than selfish. Our primary concern, after God Himself, is others, not ourselves or our own. How are we following our Saviour in this regard?

In 1878, J. C. Ryle wrote:

There is a generation of professing Christians now-a-days, who seem to know nothing of caring for their neighbours, and are wholly swallowed up in the concerns of number one - that is, their own and their family's. They eat, and drink, and sleep, and dress, and work, and get money, and spend money, year after year; and whether others are happy or miserable, well or ill, converted or unconverted, travelling toward heaven or toward hell, appear to be questions about which they are supremely indifferent. Can this be right? Can it be reconciled with the religion of Him who spoke the parable of the good Samaritan, and bade us "go and do likewise"? (Luke 10:37) I doubt it altogether.

If that was true almost 150 years ago, how much greater is the temptation in our day of rife individualism?

As we examine ourselves in response to God's Word and providence, we have to ask some serious questions about what has, hitherto, characterised our Christianity. Have we cared about others, or have we been swallowed up in our own concerns? Has our Christianity been active and sacrificial, or has it been individualistic and comfortable?

As we prepare to enter what is being called a 'new normal,' what will our new Christian normal be? If God has been speaking to us through this pandemic and calling us to change, what will have changed? Will repentance make us look more like Jesus who continually 'went about doing good' (Acts 10:38)? Or will the new normal be like the old normal?

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:24-26a)