A couple years ago, after reading the first chapter in Read the Bible for Life by George Guthrie. I must admit I was quite surprised at how personal this chapter was for me since it revolved around the February 5, 2008 tornado that struck Union University. I didn’t realize that Dr. Guthrie had begun his book with this particular discussion with David Dockery. The entire chapter was so personal and so relative to my walk with God that I was almost moved to tears. Let me explain.
During the time spoken of, like many who will be reading this book, I was not only a student, but I was also on staff at Union. I had just left the office 2 hours prior to when the tornado struck. It brought me back to that night when I received the phone call saying that volunteers were needed to help get the students to safety…and what a miracle that not a single life was lost.
I remember the weeks following and how the normal routine at work had completely changed and we all had to pull together to salvage what was left. We had to regroup, reorganize, counsel, and rethink how things would need to be done. I remember attending my classes at one of the local private schools while campus was being “reconstructed”. It took everyone putting aside personal tasks and personal issues to focus on working together to help the victims and clean up the rubble. The whole community came together. It was such an amazing experience to see so many reaching out to others in a time of crisis.
Amidst the nostalgia while reading, I found myself deeply touched by a couple of particular statements in Dr. Dockery’s testimony. The first thing he said which had a very personal impact was when he commented on his perspective of what it meant to live with a biblical view of the world. He states, “First, we must be committed to the Great Commandment, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as loving one another as ourselves”.
It was not the words of Dr. Dockery which struck a chord so much as the Word of God which he quoted. If I had my personal journals in front of me, there would be many references to Mark 12:30 and Deuteronomy 6:4 because these verses were the start of a lifetime of change for me and have been the focal point of that change for the last decade.
Loving God first goes totally against the grain of humanity. In fact loving God and others is quite the opposite of human tendency. Loving self first is what comes natural to our carnal being. What I have learned about putting me first is that it is…
2. Counter productive
The harder we work to elevate ourselves in our own eyes and the eyes of others, the more selfish we become. We fight so hard to protect what is ours and to be something other than who God created us to be. Consequently, we are not much fun to be around.
People feed off of one another’s selfishness. They try to make friends with those in the limelight for their own personal gain. They step on others to climb to the top. They even do nice things for others for personal recognition. Relationships become superficial. Feelings get hurt. Anger gets stirred. Fights happen. Friends are alienated. This is the same kind of selfishness that is at the root of divorces, gang fights, riots, and wars.
Being self focused is the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot or beating your head against a brick wall. Yet, it is a constant battle and a conscious choice, moment by moment that I strive to not be self-centered. Being unselfish does not come naturally for most of humanity yet, selfishness is almost like self abuse. Even so, we cling to the carnal teachings that say we are our own God, we don’t need God, and/or we must be true to our “self”…”me first”. This gives a whole new perspective to, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last”. Putting myself first almost always will put me in last place in the long run.
Truthfully, I have learned from personal experience that selfishness leads to loss…not gain. God commands us to love Him first because unless we do…we can’t love others. If we love others and consider them more important than ourselves, we live in peace with others and with God.
God doesn’t command us to do this because he is an egocentric. He doesn’t put boundaries in our lives to imprison us. He does it to free us. The cure for all the misery in the world is found in the First and Greatest Commandment…love.
So, where is the problem? Why is loving God and placing others as more important than ourselves so contrary to popular belief? Why is it so hard to love? It shouldn’t be.
In closing, I leave you with another impactful quote by Dr. Dockery, “It is because of sin that our relationship with God has been distorted. It is because of sin that our relationship with others has been frayed.”
It is because of sin that we find it hard to love.