So much of John Bevere’s Good or God? has been brutally honest.
He is calling for Christians to meet a higher standard, a holy standard and he pulls no punches. He confronts the way we live today, in a culture that encourages all of us to buy what we don’t need and worship the trappings of power, power that we don’t have.
Now he writes about a core problem that is at the base of our struggle to be holy.
Many of us are selfish, at least I know I am.
Maybe Bevere’s ideas make you uneasy. As you read my writing, can you imagine the difficulty I have in commenting on Bevere’s ideas. I live in this world with you. Your temptations are my temptations. Don’t we all fall short of the glory of God?
But let’s return to that core idea selfishness. I have heard that it is a problem I have had for a very long time. There is an old family tale about my Aunt Effie who came into the hospital to visit baby David and Mom. She bent over to look into the bassinette and declared the following: “His ears are close to his head. He is going to be selfish.”
There you have it; selfish from birth.
You see, the problem is that selfishness flies in the face of the Christian lifestyle. If you have met and entered into a relationship with Jesus, you must live for Him, not yourself. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:15: “Those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead they will live for Christ.”
Even though the story about Aunt Effie may sound flippant, the story of the rest of my life has not been. For so long, I had the idea that the world revolved around me. Being the oldest son of three boys did not help. Being the child who excelled in school made it even worse. I got a lot of positive attention for my academic skills. My wife joked that if I went beyond my “terminal” degree and took any other graduate courses, she would divorce me. She said this in a joking manner but it really was not a joke. I pursued education at a huge cost and I was so wrapped up in it that I did not pay attention to the sacrifices of others. Along the way, I developed a serious interest in communication and pursued speech communication skills. Not only did I study the subject, I put myself in situations where I had to speak competitively. I got very good at this and the attention just fed my selfishness. Again, this took up a lot of time and money and I paid little attention to the sacrifices of those around me.
Bevere speaks of his marriage as an unselfish relationship and for him it may be, but for me, it was not. I was the first person in my marriage. When he writes “I’ve observed husbands who have little regard for their wives wishes; they think selfishly. They may be technically married, but these husbands and wives are not experiencing close intimacy” [ Bevere, 130]. Those words hit me hard. I know I have always loved my wife but I also know it was not enough. My own needs kept getting in the way. I put my own needs first.
In the Bible, James writes with the same honesty as Bevere. Attend to his words from James 3: “If your heart is full of…selfishness, don’t brag or lie to cover up the truth. That kind of wisdom doesn’t come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself. Whenever people are selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.” James goes on to say that there are two kinds of behavior patterns: giving and taking. Taking is selfish, worldly and unfaithful to God. To be a Christian is to know how to give, to consider the needs of others, to meet the needs of others and not always put yourself first.
In my situation, I had to suffer through a serious accident to finally come to grips with my selfishness and see a true example of unselfishness…that example was my wife. She stood by my side one hundred percent as I tried to recover my health. Some of the circumstances of my recovery were very unpleasant but she never complained. She supported me totally.
Today, I knew that I would be writing this post tonight. When I have a difficult piece of writing to do, I have to let is bounce around in my head for a day or two. My wife and I were in the car today, driving toward our home and I turned to her and said “Well tomorrow, it is back to Vanderbilt again. I sure appreciate you going with me. I know some people would say, you are well enough to go alone.” She just snickered and said, “I would never ask you to go alone.” She was giving up her day for me.
She did not have to say “I would never ask you to go alone.” I suspected that she was going to say that. She has proved over and over again that she is a giver, not a taker. She put the needs of others first and rarely puts herself first.
I am trying to learn the ways of unselfishness. I know that selfish behavior is not pleasing to God. Over and over, I read in my Bible that God demands that we be givers. The Bible is a wonderful instructional tool, but we all know that some of the best lessons can also be learned from excellent Christian role models. I am so blessed.
I have an excellent one in my own home…my wife Susan.