Monday, July 8, 2013

Christ or Narcissus?

Jesus Christ. Son of God. The Messiah. Called his followers to pick up their cross, die to their selves, and follow him, living a life that is others focused. Giver of eternal life.

Narcissus. Son of a Greek god. Self centered. Treated others with disdain, especially anyone who loved him. Fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water and couldn't tear himself away. Died.

We live in a narcissistic culture. We have been told to look out for number one, and that the greatest love is a love for oneself. Even acts of altruism are many times done because of how good it makes us feel. We are encouraged to make sure we get what we want out of life, whether that be career success, fame, love, or just being happy. Advertisers make millions because they can convince us that we need the newest product to make our lives complete. We in the church look at the culture and say, "Boy those folks sure are selfish."

What is sad is that there is a narcissistic Christianity that has infected the church. Jesus has gone from being our "personal Savior," to someone who will give us whatever we think we need. In Jesus Manifesto,  Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola noted that at the beginning of the twenty-first century the majority of the 100 top selling Christian books were focused on the personal and private. 6 books were about the Bible, 4 were about Jesus, and 3 were about evangelism. The other 87 were essentially "self help" books. If you look at the titles in any Christian bookstore, you can learn how to have your best life now where every day is a Friday, you can find out how to be a king in your own personal kingdom and have dominion over everything that comes your way, or you can find out to be a better (fill in the blank). If you watch Christian television, you can find out how to increase your finances by giving to any one of a bunch of ministries. Sounds kind of like the lottery to me. There was even a preacher on one program telling folks how to get what they wanted from God, comparing the ruler of the universe to a fast food restaurant! It's all about us!

Jesus calls us to something far different. He calls us to live as he lived. Instead of an inward focus, Jesus lived with an outward focus. His first focus was his Father. Jesus stated that he did nothing but what the Father told him, and that he came to do the Father's will. His other focus was on those who needed love and grace. Pretty much everyone. Jesus' mission was to redeem those who were in need of redemption. He went around doing good, forgiving sins, healing, and loving. He loved the Father, and us, so much that he died a shameful death in the most agonizing way known to that day. He was the sacrifice that did what we could never do, reconcile us with God. That death, taken for others, brought us life. We who follow Jesus are called to the same kind of life. A life that is focused first on loving God, and then on loving others as Jesus loved us. It is a sacrificial life, a life that gives up, a life that wins by losing. How well do you think that title would do in the market?

Christ or Narcissus? One died because he couldn't get his focus off himself. The other calls us to come and die, and find that we may truly live.