We are all incredibly self-focused, selfish people, and only through great intentional effort will we become other-focused people. We must be so overwhelmed by the love of God for us that we look for validation only from God. Accepting and believing in God’s great love for us will free us to be other-focused people. 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.” Verse 15 shows us how this connects with becoming “other-focused”: “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. 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 Paul never took God’s grace to him 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 such a baby in the middle of the floor, left in all its mess, utterly helpless to clean itself up. But, he said, Romans 5:6–8 tells us that 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 to love others. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The key to loving others is believing that we are loved deeply by God. We aren’t capable of becoming other-focused people until we love ourselves first. Doing so is not selfishness or pride: It is simply believing the truth of God’s love for us.
REFLECTIONS: Would you say that you know deep down in your heart that you are fully loved by God? Do you find yourself unable to focus on other people and their needs because you are having a problem loving yourself? Find a way to remind yourself of the truth of Romans 5:8, that while you were still in a mess, Christ died for you.
See what kind of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
1 John 3:1