Selflessness in a selfish world

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” — Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Pitch deadline: May 28
Article deadline: July 2

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Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9 once silently, then a second time out loud. What stands out to you the most? Do any words, images, or phrases resonate with you?

Jesus quotes from this passage in Matthew 22:37-40. He gives an exquisite summary of what allegiance to God looks like. It means giving our bodies, minds, desires, influences, and abilities to God completely and wholistically. It means seeking the same flourishing and dignity for our fellow humans as we want for ourselves.

Listen to this sermon from Bridgetown Church. It frames the theme of selflessness within our overall vocation as humans.

Throughout this pandemic, our social “bubbles” have decreased. Perhaps some of our perspectives have shrunk too—fitting inside our living rooms. When this time of sickness and isolation ends, we’ll face a new transition, enlarging our bubbles once again.

As our team discussed the theme for this issue, we reflected on how selfishness and hate can be interconnected. Self-preservation can come at the expense of others. To participate in genuine love, we must put our defenses down and seek good without being sure we’ll receive it in return.

There’s also a difference between self-worth and self-absorption. Sometimes, we can over-spiritualize self denial. But bad self-worth leads to selfish love, just as good self-worth leads to selfless love. As Rick Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Life, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Some questions to get the ideas flowing:

  • We’re called to surrender all we have to God and promised that doing so brings life (Matthew 16:24-25). This concept is difficult to wrap our minds around, especially in our self-focused culture. What do you think this means practically? What does it mean to live for God, not yourself?
  • Can you think of examples in your life or community where you see selfless service being lived out?
  • What does it mean to take care of yourself and prevent burnout while still being selfless?
  • Do you have a story of someone who exemplifies selflessness? Your grandma, sibling, friend, etc.?
  • Have you ever been consumed by individualism? What awakened you and how have you changed?
  • Jesus’s yoke is easy and his burden is light. What does this have to do with a selfless life?
  • Have you ever tried to live only within your means so you can be more generous with the extras? Tell that story.
  • Write about the role of selflessness in leadership. For example, giving up power to allow others to shine.
  • How can we be people of celebration who champion one another instead of being threatened or jealous? What has this looked like in your life?
  • What are the fruits of selflessness (internally and externally)?

As always, don’t be bound by these suggestions!

Again, the article deadline is July 2.