I came to realize something about myself and about Christmas this week.
First about me, I realized I’m often a pretty self-centered guy. Not selfish, but self-centered. What’s the difference? Imagine if my wife came home after working all day and I said to her, “Oh I’m glad you’re home. I’m starving what’s for supper?” That would be selfish. If instead she came home and I said, “I know you’ve had a long day, I have supper ready.” But after we’ve eaten she says, “I’m so tired, would you mind if I just had a bath and went to bed?” Me being the unselfish husband that I am, I would say “sure, that’s fine.” But on the inside I’m feeling unappreciated. I’m thinking “After all I did for her I don’t get so much as a thank-you or a kiss and now I’ve got to do the dishes too!?” That is self-centered and we are all like that, in every one of our relationships.
Selfishness is obvious because we see it on the outside, but self-centeredness is about motives; what compels me to do what I do. Like what I get out of it, or how people respond to me. It’s about how I am perceived by other, whether they like, admire, or respect me. Or how I feel about myself; I like to think I’m a pretty good person. Maybe it’s just guilt and/or responsibility.
Nobody likes a selfish person, but being self-centered actually looks pretty good from the outside. A self-centered person is often helpful, hard-working, generous, thoughtful and so on. But God looks on the inside, and from that perspective a self-centered person looks no different than a selfish person. I was appalled at what God revealed inside me.
What struck me in the story of Christmas was God acted selflessly when Jesus, born as a baby, became human. Jesus’ nature is purely self-giving. In fact the whole nature of the Trinity is about selflessly serving each other in the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. We all are unable to act purely selflessly because at our core our nature is completely self-centered.
But through his birth, death and resurrection Jesus offers to replace your nature with his. At the core of a Christ follower is the selfless nature of Jesus. As you celebrate Christmas, ask God to show you the motives that drive you. Come to his manger surrendered and humbled. That is when his nature will be given liberty to live selflessly through you.