What does a Christ-like mind look like as we live in the world? We can see it clearly in the great saints and martyrs, such as Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer. I’m drawn as well to the idea William Placher suggests in his book “Narratives of a Vulnerable God” as he uses an illustration from the world of basketball. Professor Placher writes, “In basketball the players who are always asking, ‘How am I doing? Am I getting my share of the shots?’ Those are the ones who never reach their full potential. It is the players who lose themselves who find themselves. And it’s that kind of self-forgetfulness that makes the best players.” And isn’t that the case with all of us in whatever we do?
I read about one of the fastest growing churches in the world, with branches in 32 countries already. It is called the Winners Church, and according to its leaders, it lives by a motto that comes from America’s religious culture. Here’s the motto: “Be happy. Be successful. Join the winners.” People flock to that kind of church, I guess. But it all depends, doesn’t it, on how we define winning? I wonder what kind of church you would have if your motto were “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” Or about this one for a motto, “Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them.”
For the past several years I have lived with the Christian mystics and sought that God would allow me to learn from them. One of the most important lessons they have taught me is the act of putting self behind. In doing so, I place God in front. He belongs there.
If a monk does not think in his own heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him. The brother said, ‘What does this mean, to think in his heart he is a sinner?’ Then the old man said, ‘When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbor.’
—-Abba Moses of the Desert
This type of theme of careful introspection resonates very loudly in our grudge-filled and judgmental society. The poet Anne Currin writes, “You’re so devoted to all your grudges, You cherish them like they’re a prize; You hold them with pride on your pedestal Bursting with bliss as your relationships die.” Many years before the poet wrote those words the people of the desert were pondering how to deal with such things. In this saying, the Abba points us directly to our awareness of personal sin and its effect on our behavior toward others.
His advice is quite simple. We are called to believe in our hearts that we are sinners, and sin is our nature. Until we can recognize our nature, it is very difficult to improve our lot. When we turn our energies toward self – improvement we steer away from judgment of others, and towards unity with God. That unity, after all, is our primary goal. Own your sins and ask God to give you the grace to overcome.
Lord, give me the wisdom and insight to discover my true self and the grace to live with the knowledge, Allow me to be able to prosper, not because of who I am, but because of what your grace can make me to be, Let your light shine brightly in all my days and your peace rest with me in my nights.
- ‘Billy was my hero.’ Pastor Rick Warren remembers his mentor Billy Graham (bostonherald.com)
- Churches for People Who Dislike God (americanthinker.com)
- The Cardinal (thewoundedheart.me)