One of the most vital lessons that I’ve learned in my life over the past couple of years is the idea that in serving and loving others, we are serving Jesus. Whenever I get locked into a debate with somebody about the flaws of Christianity, or I get bogged down in my own personal issues of the conscience, I am able to find comfort and resolution in the focus that Jesus gave to his followers. Out of all of the lessons that He taught, the points that Jesus said were most important were to, first, love God above all, and second, to love others as we love ourselves. He wants us to be selfless.
By nature, if one is selfless, then he is for others. For me, this realization is the crux of my faith in Jesus and the foundational principles of Christianity. While so many, including, if not especially, myself, do such a poor job of reflecting Jesus, the principles that He set down as the main focus for his followers remain as undeniably good and true. The real focus of Christianity should not be on legislating morality, assessing others’ spirituality against our own distorted standards, or on wearing the most flawless mask in front of others at church each week in order to hide our own insecurities and shortfalls. Instead, we are to love others as we love ourselves and persistently consider and act on opportunities to express love to other people by placing their needs and interests before our own.
I find, at the end of most days, how discouraged with life or fulfilled with peace I am, is determined directly by how much focus I’ve place on myself over the course of the day in comparison to how often or how much I’ve placed the needs and concerns of others on an even level with my own. It seems so counter-intuitive, but, what is often a natural inclination for me as a man, to look out for myself, is the exact opposite of what is natural for God. But, on the rare occasions that I actually do put my own interest on the backburner, I always come away feeling like I have received by giving. And perhaps that is because, often, placing the interests of others before our own, we are placing the the interests of Jesus before our own.
“In the winter of 1947, Abbe Pierre, known as the modern apostle of mercy to the poor of Paris, found a young family almost frozen to death on the streets. He scooped them up and brought them back to his own poor dwelling, already crowded with vagrants. Where could he house them? After some thought, he went to the chapel, removed the Blessed Sacrement, and placed the family in the chapel to sleep for the night. When his Dominican confreres expressed shock at such irreverence to the Blessed Sacrement, Abbe Pierre replied, “Jesus Christ isn’t cold in the Eucharist, but he is cold in the body of a little child.”
-Brennan Manning, The Wisdom Of Tenderness, pp.66
34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. 36 I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 37 “Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me.’
“I tell you what, i believe in Christ more than Christianity by a long shot.”