(Originally posted: June 27, 2012)
I recently saw this piece of well-intentioned “advice” that was posted on Facebook and noted that very similar “sayings” have also been again circulating for a while:
“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”
I understand why this sounds good, because it focuses on self. It sounds especially good to someone in a very difficult or “chronic” situation – more on that later.
But where is Jesus in this advice? I’m glad he didn’t walk away from us (when we were yet his enemies!), and I pray that his example helps us serve others, rather than insisting that they serve us, grow us, or make us happy. The Kingdom of God is antithetical to humanism. It challenges humanism and its focus on self [Lk 9:23].
The fundamental question is this: Whom will you serve? Will it be the “god” of self, or your Father in heaven who paid a huge price to send the Servant who gave his life for you?
Is it possible that the above admonishment to increase “self-respect” enough to enable the “walk-away” option is, in fact, a hidden trap leading to decreased respect for the new creature you have become upon your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? In other words, might there be an increased urge to focus even more on self after such a walk-away, especially if “friends” applaud your “courageous” decision? [Pr 14:12]
The seduction of such advice is that the “self” you are being encouraged to respect more is actually your old “self,” the old nature that needs no help in satisfying its own soulish desires. On the other hand, it is prudent to increase respect for your new self, the nature that now lives in obedience to Christ and eschews the old cravings of the former nature [Eph 4:22-24]. Obedience is a pathway to the true and complete joy that Jesus wants you to have, and when you have overcome the temptation to satisfy your old self, then you will have not only the rewards that Jesus has promised [Rev 2:7b, 11b, 17b-c, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21], but you will also have become someone worthy of true respect of the new self.
But what about the really difficult situation you may be in? Humanism tells you to walk away. Christlikeness strengthens your resolve and ability to hold steady to whatever the Lord has commanded you [Lk 22:42]. If he tells you to stay, and serve the Kingdom interest in your situation by doing so, then he will enable you to do so [2Cor 12:9].
Being served by others and requiring that they somehow make you better, or that they make you happy, is not the way of the Galilean [Phil 2:3-7]. If the Holy Spirit does give you a new assignment, then you should be obedient to his leading, and you will be if you are a son of God [Rom 8:14]. Your joy will be deep and secure because of your obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit, not because you satisfied the desires of the old self for shallow “happiness” that evaporates with a shift in circumstance.
If you are a follower of Christ, then you have the glorious opportunity to experience the joy of your Lord as you serve in the manner he did (and does!). This high calling is of far more value than the inferior result of settling “for a bowl of soup,” as did Esau when he short-sightedly sold his birthright (as the first-born) to his brother Jacob [see Gen 25:27-34].
Be sure today to make a clear and committed choice. You can choose either to be a self-server who has been duped by humanistic advice, or to be a Spirit-led new “self” who serves others! Rather than walk away, walk in the Way!