Second of a series of extracts
A life for others
It’s not about me — it’s about loving God and others.
‘It’s hard to believe so much could have changed in such a short time’, Lou thought to herself. She tried to think back to six months ago. She was pretty sure she wouldn’t have even entertained the idea back then, not even for a minute. She was happy to be with people and help out when she could, but there were times when she needed some downtime. Yet here she was, sitting in her kitchen, waiting for Ayisha, the refugee from northern Iraq, to arrive. A housemate! Who would have thought it? But what else could she do? The girl needed a home and she had space.
She could almost pinpoint the moment of her change of heart. It was as she listened to a talk she had downloaded on Romans 5. She began to understand the gospel in a new way. Okay, it might be a tad clich?d, but there was no other way to describe it: she had been deeply moved and had even begun to sob. The Lord just seemed so much more real to her. And she wanted to please him. Of course, she wanted to serve and bless Ayisha, but that was because she so much wanted to serve and honour her Saviour.
Read all about it
Self-love is big business. A well-known cosmetic company sells its products by paying beautiful celebrities to recite the company’s mantra: 'Because you’re worth it’. Whitney Houston once sang: ‘Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all’. Sorry, Whitney, notwithstanding your angelic voice, I’m afraid you’ve missed the point. We don’t need to learn to love ourselves — that comes all too naturally. The Bible tells us that we were not made for that.
As you read through Genesis 1, it’s easy to detect a rhythm and pattern to the story. Each section begins with the words: ‘Then God said…’ and ends with the words ‘There was evening, and there was morning…’ Day six also begins in this way, but in verse 26 the rhythm is interrupted. God begins a conversation using the words ‘us’ and ‘our’: ‘Let us make man in our image…’ Man was to be the image of the complex deity that is God. That is why it was Adam and Eve together, Adam and Eve in relationship, who were made to bear God’s image. It was as they loved one another, served one another and took responsibility for one another that they revealed the character of the Creator.
Although this is implicit in the Genesis 1 account, it becomes explicit in Genesis 2. The writer fills in some of the detail of the great panorama he has painted for us in the first chapter. Eve was made after Adam, but it was not merely as a supplement to him to cure his loneliness; it was as one suitable for him that he could love. When Adam, as Eve’s head, loved her, and Eve, as Adam’s helper, loved him, they were walking, talking, living images of the complex, inter-personal God who made them.
At a fundamental level this answers the question many of us have asked at some time: who am I and what is my life all about? If we believe the Genesis account, we no longer have to face the prospect of a mid-life crisis or fear getting lost, forever in the dark about the point of our existence. I am made to be a lover of God and others. So whether I am a preacher, a teacher, a street cleaner or an unemployed shelf-stacker, God’s call on my life is to be a lover. In the previous chapter, we considered asking in every situation: how will this glorify God? Now the question has expanded in line with the answer of Jesus to the lawyer: how will this express love for God and others?
Biblical background: read Matthew 22.34-40.
Questions for reflection
Over the coming week, look for ways in which self-love is celebrated in the media or in day-to-day life. Remind yourself in those times that you have been made in the image of God and be thankful that you have been set free to love God and others.
Consider how this love for God and others might be expressed in your relationships at home, in work and at church.
Gospel-centred Life is published by The Good Book Company and includes more in-depth Bible study and discussion questions. It is suitable for individual or group study. Price: £3.00, with discounts for bulk purchase. Visit http://www.thegoodbook.co.uk or call 0845 225 0880 to order.