Lethbridge Herald

Self- or Christ-centred

- Jacob M. Van Zyl

Third of three parts

For ages, people assumed that the sun circles around Earth. We still say the sun rises and sets. A time-lapse video of the night sky shows a stationary horizon and a moving firmament.

Four centuries ago, the heliocentr­ic idea was rejected by the church; Galileo was put in house arrest for the rest of his life and forbidden to propagate the idea that Earth orbits the sun.

As telescopes developed, and explorers sailed around the globe, the truth about our solar system eventually prevailed.

The same mistake is often made in religion: people make themselves the centre of their lives instead of God.

The Bible teaches that God revealed himself in three Persons. The oldest creeds of Christiani­ty summarize biblical truth about the Trinity, and about the salvation Father, Son and Spirit provided.

The Son of God took on human nature, living among people as Jesus of Nazareth. He showed us the true nature of God and the true meaning of Scripture. He died as atoning sacrifice for those who believe in him. He overcame death and now intervenes for believers at the right hand of the Father. God sent his Spirit to bring people to faith, love and hope.

Jesus summarized the law of Moses as love for God and neighbour. The night before his crucifixio­n, he gave his disciples a new command: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

Love for God and neighbour was already difficult; but to love others as Jesus loved us — that seems humanly impossible! Jesus’ answer to this objection is, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Paul explains, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5).

In all these passages, the word for love is agape — sacrificin­g, non-selfish love. It is often used as a verb: because this love is active, it does something good for the loved one. It is more than friendship love (philo) or sexual love (eros). Agape love elevates sex to tender, romantic love between husband and wife.

Agape love replaces egocentric love with the love of Christ for others: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” ( John 15:13).

This is not only true for defence and police forces, but wherever people are giving their money, time and effort to serve people in need. Missionari­es endure poor living conditions in foreign countries, far from family and friends, to bring the good news of forgivenes­s in Christ to those who seek reconcilia­tion with God.

Here at home, we can render a helping hand by kind words of encouragem­ent and timely practical help.

Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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