Love is not Self-seeking

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

Love is concerned with the well-being of others, not solely with its own welfare. Love is prepared to give up for the sake of others; even what it is entitled to.

Selfishness can destroy any relationship…especially a marriage relationship. It doesn’t come as a surprise that The Love Dare addresses this concept very early in the book – it’s that important. “If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it’s selfishness.” (p. 11) The grim reality? We are all selfish. We’re born that way.

Many marriages end simply because the two spouses could never quite become one unit. If either or both are constantly looking out for self and never putting the good of the entire family first, things will ultimately fall apart. This can be said of any relationship.

In Mark 3:25, Jesus stated that a house divided cannot stand. There has to be unity in the home, each member of the family acting as a teammate, in order for any sort of happiness to be there. Each person seeking to get only for themselves, at the expense of others, will lead only to strife.

Those last two paragraphs shed some light on a personal relationship of my own…and one within my own family none-the-less. Now, I won’t bore you with the details…but here’s a question. What do you do if you’re willing, but the other is not? The only answer I have at this moment is to continue loving them even when I don’t feel like it (or feel as if I’ve given all I can) and pray; pray that God will continue to love them through me, that He’ll forgive them continuously through me and pray for them. We have to understand that we won’t be answering for the actions of others when we stand before God. We will only be answering for ourselves. Our actions. What did I do with what God gave me? (Time, money, love, people, etc) Not what did others do with what God gave me.

If you’re familiar with the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians (the scripture from which this idea came) – the “love” chapter – you know that these verses are a beautiful and timeless description of what love does. It is often read at weddings (perhaps even yours). We all would do well to read it from time to time, just as a reminder (and that goes for all of us…not just those who are married). Try substituting your name for “love” when you read through it. Does each statement ring true? If not, then you have something to work on. Don’t we all!

Keep reading past all of those familiar verses and you’ll come to 1 Corinthians 13:11. It reads, When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Do you see what the obvious question for today is? Have you put childish ways behind you? Do you put the needs of others ahead of your own? Do you share? Are you treating others the way you would like to be treated?

Have you grown up? Are you treating your spouse as the precious gift from that they are to you?

God’s love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in. God sets the pattern to true love, the basis of all relationships.

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves. His sacrificial life is the model of self-denying love. He said to his disciples, and He still says this to you and me today: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Christ came to earth for us. That was not selfish. He spent His whole adult life ministering and teaching while being ridiculed and mistreated (and misunderstood). He even gave up His life, so that you and I could have a future with Him in heaven.

Those who follow Christ are motivated by His sacrificial life to give rather than to get, to serve for the good of others, and not just for our own good.

Seeking self-fulfillment, as the be-all and end-all of life results in either self-deception, or disappointment, that is divorced from reality, and distanced from truly loving relationships. We become so preoccupied with our own search that we lose our perspective on ourselves, and neglect helping others. On the other hand, love moves us to make others the center of our concern. It causes us to ask, “How can I use what God has given me, and made me to be, and what wisdom and insight I have discovered, to help others.”

The true ideal self, as seen in Jesus, seeks to go beyond the limited vision of self-fulfillment to the maturity of self-denial for the sake of loving others. Such love is not the doormat variety, that denies self out of self-hatred, or fear, or ignorance. It is a love that draws strength from an awareness of who you are, and what you are called to be, to offer yourself in service to help another. Far from being a doormat, and passive in our relationships, sometimes loving others requires us to assert ourselves.

Love is not self-seeking, it does not insist on its own way. It always – ALWAYS – puts others first. Love needs to discern when it is appropriate to assert one’s needs or when it is wise to deny them for the sake of others. We need to pray for wisdom to know when to speak up and when to keep silent, when to act and when to wait, when to fight and when to surrender. Love knows the more excellent way of helping others. It transforms self-seeking into seeking to serve others in the most effective way. This calls for prayer and the courage Jesus can give. We cannot do it in our own strength. We need the power of the Spirit of Jesus.

If He could give His life for us (and more), shouldn’t we be willing to do more for others; to think more for them than of ourselves?

Sometimes you will have to put aside your own desires for the greater good of your relationship (marriage or otherwise). Sometimes keeping a friendship means not getting your way. Sometimes selfishness won’t be reciprocated. Sometimes it may seem that you’re doing it for no reason at all. But love always hopes, love always endures, and love never fails. Hold on and keep loving.

Scripture to encourage you today:

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

For the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:15

…they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last…” Mark 9:34, 35

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…John 3:16

Love is not selfish. Love gives!

Today’s Challenge: Buy or do something for someone who means a lot to you (your spouse if you’re married, a close friend/parent/sibling/etc if you’re not) to show them that you were thinking of them. The object is to go out of your way to demonstrate that you are thinking of that person in a generous way.

Work cited: Kendrick, Stephen and Alex, The Love Dare (Nashville:  B & H Publishing Group, 2008)

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