Friday, December 01, 2006

Egocentrism is the Enemy of Love and Forgiveness

I said to a friend recently, "My worldview is Theocentric not egocentric. God is at the center of all reality, not me. I must bend and shape my life around the fact that he is real and has a will for humans, revealed in the Bible."

But through a series of recent experiences I've come to see that while I believe what I said to my friend propositionally - it's something that I know is really true - practically, I don't live like it most of the time. Mostly I live like I'm the center of the universe. Don Miller says it this way in Blue Like Jazz:

"When you live on your own for years, you begin to think the world belongs to you. You begin to think all space is your space and all time is your time.
"It is like in that movie About a Boy where Nick Hornby's chief character, played by Hugh Grant, believes that life is a play about himself, that all other characters are only acting minor roles in a story that centers around him. My life felt like that. Life was a story about me because I was in every scene. In fact, I was the only one in every scene. I was everywhere I went. If somebody walked into my scene, it would frustrate me because they were disrupting the general theme of the play, namely my comfort or glory. Other people were flat characters in my movie, lifeless characters. Sometimes I would have scenes with them, dialogue, and they would speak their lines, and I would speak mine. But the movie, the grand movie stretching from Adam to Antichrist, was about me. I wouldn't have told you that at the time, but that is the way I lived."

I read that passage last night in the middle of a pity party I was hosting for myself. The party was going great until then. I wanted to throw the book across the room, because I had just given a talk on forgiveness earlier in the evening and now I was finding it hard to practice what I had preached. I'm working on a sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday, and I've been trying out some of the main ideas on the folks at the nursing home where a group of us minister on Tuesday evenings. The main idea was that Ephesians 1 says Christians have been forgiven a great debt by God, and then Ephesians 4 says we're to extend this same kind of generous forgiveness to one-another, even those who sin against us outrageously.

So I've been thinking about love and forgiveness a lot lately, and I've realized I'm not a very forgiving person. I think maybe I've truly forgiven someone twice in my whole life. Because I think I'm the main character in the world, I think everyone else should be very cooperative, play their parts, and stay out of the way of the central drama. In essence I act like I'm God. I want people to say about me what I said to my friend about God: "Josh is at the center of all reality, not me. I must bend and shape my life around the fact that he is real and has a will for humans." Yikes.

John Piper once said, "You do more to offend God in one day than will be done to you in your whole life." From this truth comes my motivation to aggressively love and forgive others. If I will meditate on how much I've been forgiven, what great harm I've done to God and his reputation by my sin, the lies my sin has told about him, I can lay hold on the grace (God-given desire and ability) to forgive others their much-lesser trespasses against me. If I delight in being forgiven I will delight in forgiving. I guess that's the lesson of Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you."

O Father, may it be so, for your Name's sake!

No comments: