We live in a culture that encourages and promotes us to focus on ourselves. We are encouraged to focus on what we want. We are told we need to look out for ourselves. I have even heard the Bible misinterpreted to say that “before we can love someone else we must first love ourselves.” I decided to look up the definition of selfish, as I often do with words that we commonly use. The primary meaning is, “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”
The problem is that when we focus on ourselves we create numerous problems in our relationships with others. Our fall series “No Excuses” has been looking at Biblical accounts that speak to our propensity to justify un-biblical behaviors. This past week my message touched on the need to “Show Genuine Concern” for others. Our time in John 4 focused on Jesus’ example of being other-centered.
There are many negative costs in focusing on ourselves. The fruit of focusing on ourselves will destroy relationships with others. It not only leads to broken relationships, anger and bitterness but also to personal loneliness, resentment and even depression. The greatest cost is the damage that we do to our testimony for Jesus in the lives of those around us!
My study of the Gospels has reminded me that the Jewish religious leaders and even Jesus’ disciples at times would do more harm than good. The account of the Samaritan woman in John 4 reveals the problem with even Jesus’ men being selfish (Note also Mathew 15:21-18). It is easy for us too to be blinded to ministry opportunities because of our focus on ourselves. I was challenged with several ways that Jesus took advantage of ministry opportunities in this passage by putting others needs before his own.
He did not let weariness keep him from helping others. I do not have the space to address this here but I do in the sermon. Just the Bible tells us that Jesus, as a 28-29 year old man, was weary after walking from early in the morning until 6 PM in the evening. The text also leads us to believe that He was also probably hungry. And yet He makes a point to interact with the Samaritan woman at the well!
We also notice that He was “blind” to cultural prejudices. This gal had several cultural strikes against her. First, she was a woman. The interaction between men and women was limited culturally. Second, she was a Samaritan. If you are familiar with the Bible, need I say more about the racism of the Jews and Samaritans toward each other. And third, she was a woman of questionable character. And yet Jesus refused to use any of these excuses and took time to minister to her!
The challenge to me is to be more other-centered rather than self-focused. I need to be more sensitive to those opportunities that God brings across my path each day to touch others for Him. This is one important way that living for Jesus is an antidote to a culture that is focused on itself. The question is, “Will you and I be the vehicles of God’s love to others that desperately need it?” “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,” John 4:39
-Pastor Joe Parkinson