3. Though you give all to the poor, yet you do not have love, you have gained nothing! (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Self-righteousness. It is so deceptive. How many of us are actually free of it? Yet, those who believe they are excelling in righteousness, are often those who stink the most of it! And I've been guilty of this too.
While I was still in the group, my best friend, Wodu (she wasn't in the group), had shared this verse with me, hoping to convict me of my erroneous belief and unfair judgment of others who didn't practice my lifestyle. It never stuck. Because I also believed I had love. It was a warning for those who didn't have love. So it didn't apply to me. And I know the JCs will probably never read this verse, and think it is a warning to them either.
It is hard to do good and not get self-righteous. It takes grace to be humble. It takes REALISING that you need grace, that you need God to be good, to be humble. And it takes a constant focus on God, to be truly righteous and loving.
It is a process of becoming like Jesus that you neither INITIATE nor SUSTAIN! God does it entirely on His own, and He asks us just to be available. To be used. To surrender. To forsake our own way, idea, plans...and LET HIM show us a better way - the right way!
A lot of the time, we need to get knocked down, and fall off our high horses, before we can see the truth about ourselves, and our dependency on God! And unfortunately, that's what it takes for a lot of people to fall at His feet and ask for mercy. But even after we have received this grace, we are so fickle, and have such short memories, that we forget how much we have been forgiven, and are ungracious towards others. We forget how much we needed - and still need - God.
Jesus said that there's a correlation between how much we think we have been forgiven and how much we love others (Luke 7:47). But we think we love plenty, when we don't even realise nor recollect HOW MUCH we have been forgiven. We may love by the rules...but if we do not love by His Spirit, we do not truly love.
Jesus is a perfect example of this. I do not believe He came to die because the Father told Him to. He wasn't simply following the rules. He came and surrendered on the Cross of His own volition, desire and passion. That was the only way He could bear it...because it was truly an expression of His heart!
People have asked me why I started doing charity work, and I tell them it is because of my passion for God. It's the truth. But what I didn't know, and what I didn't say, was that I didn't do it because I loved the poor and the vulnerable... I went into charity work religiously... I really thought it was all I was allowed to do as a Christian, since I didn't believe I could hold a regular job...and make money!
I was following the rules as I knew them. I was and I am practicing true or pure religion, as James put it (Jam 1:27). However, I've come to realise that it is not truly an expression of what's in my heart, and I have struggled to keep the fire burning... Yes, I do care for the people I help and believe in my cause, but there are so many other things that would make me happier! And I've recently found a competing passion for my charity work...blogging and telling stories!
I am not saying it is wrong to do something simply because it is the right thing to do. We can learn a lot about ourselves, and about love and sacrifice in the process. We can also do a lot of good too, and be an example to others! Also, there is a lot that Christ calls us to do that will go against what we actually want to do, so following your heart isn't the message here.
I'm just saying that we can do many great things, but not for the right reason...and not with the right heart. And when we do that, we are at risk of burn out, bitterness, envy, self-righteousness...and may even fail to complete what we started out to do in good faith. It helps to love what you do!
We can only love naturally, when love has become our nature. And that is the process of dying to self, through humility and submission to God, as we let His Spirit undo our carnal nature. When love is our nature, we will never think to commend ourselves for the good we do. We will be too humble to notice it. We will constantly be filled with the awareness of what more needs to be done...and desire to be used even more.
Okay, so, now that I understand better my liberty in Christianity, there are a great many possibilities available to me now. I also realise more so now, how it is more blessed to practice sincere love, than to practice sincere religion! But I will keep trying to do both, so help me God!
Photo credit: www.pixabay.com