We live in a self-centered world. From identity politics to Twitter, FoMO to twenty-four-hour cable news, safe spaces to speech codes, we focus on what pleases us, amuses us, or fills us with self-importance. We think everything revolves around us and if it doesn’t, it should. We see it on campuses, on the campaign trail, and at international summits that ultimately do little to mitigate climate change in the end.
Our culture often frames this untenable condition in terms of unrequited love. The band, Scouting for Girls, sets this theme to a catchy tune. Please be aware that the lyrics contain mild innuendoes (yes, a trigger warning):
To this situation we find ourselves in, we must say with the Apostle James:
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
James 3:10 English Standard Version (ESV)
Worse still, agreeing with the Apostle Paul, we see that we go along recklessly with them:
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Romans 1:32-2:1 (ESV)
But, the Lord Jesus, through the Apostle John, puts the matter in perspective:
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
John 12:25 (ESV)
Much has been written on the interpretation of this verse. Calvin says in part:
He who, under the influence of immoderate desire of the present life, cannot leave the world but by constraint, is said to love life; but he who, despising life, advances courageously to death, is said to hate life.
Not that we ought absolutely to hate life, which is justly reckoned to be one of the highest of God’s blessings;
but because believers ought to cheerfully lay it down, when it retards them from approaching to Christ;
just as a man, when he wishes to make haste in any matter, would shake off from his shoulders a heavy and disagreeable burden.
Further, we are to live for the good of others:
So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Romans 12:5, 10, 16 (ESV)
Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves and others, we don’t give others honor or affection:
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 5:15, 26; 6:2 (ESV)
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:11, 15 (ESV)
However, heed this admonition with a warning. Do not neglect it at your peril:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:7, 20, 21 (ESV)