We are all incredibly self-focused, self-centered people. It is only through great intentional effort that we can become other-focused people. The key is becoming so overwhelmed by the truth of God’s love for us that we look for our basic validation only from Him. Accepting and believing in God’s great love for us will free us to become other-focused. Then we will be motivated to love others purely, not with an eye to what they can give us in return. The Apostle Paul was clear about what motivated him. In 2 Corinthians 5:14, he says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all.” The very next verse shows how this connects with becoming “other-focused.” It says, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
When we become amazed by God’s love for us, we have no problem giving our lives in service to him by focusing on others and serving them. The Apostle Paul never forgot the amazing love and grace that God poured out in his own life. In 1 Timothy 1:14–15, we see that he never took God’s grace for granted:
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
Many years ago I heard a preacher illustrate God’s love and grace in a way I have never forgotten. He talked about how everyone loves to hold and cuddle a baby who is happy and smells good. But imagine the baby in another situation, having just spit up all over itself, its diaper oozing at the edges. No one wants to hold and cuddle such a baby! The preacher asked us to picture this baby lying in the middle of the floor, left in all its mess, utterly helpless to clean itself up. Then he read Romans 5:6–8, that says it was at this exact moment, God reached down to pick us up:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
When you and I realize the depth of God’s love for us, we are freed from our self-centeredness and we can begin to focus on loving others.
REFLECTIONS: Are you a self-centered person? Do you spend most of your time thinking about yourself or about others? Do you serve others with the expectation of getting something from them or do you serve them simply to show love and meet needs? What daily trigger can you set up to remind yourself of how much you are loved?
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