What the world needs now is other-centered, self-giving love, not political activism. Every inhumanity to man and social injustice is automatically taken care of when we treat others the same way we want to be treated. This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching (Matt.7:12). Of course, the problem is…humans. We’ve proven we’re incapable of loving this way. Rarely, do we not behave in our own self-interest.
Just like trying to arbitrarily create a utopian society is a pipedream, so is thinking everyone can just decide to walk in other-centered love. Human will-power can’t do this. And religion certainly can’t do this. The only way this is possible is by having our hearts transformed, which is precisely what happens when we completely surrender it to the ongoing cooperative process with Jesus that I’ve been talking about.
As I continue my deep dive into Matthew chapter seven, we’ll see how Jesus emphasizes the authentic followers versus the pretenders. This should help us understand why this cooperative process is so important.
Let’s continue where I left off last time in Matthew:
12 “In everything you do, be careful to treat others in the same way you’d want them to treat you, for that is the essence of all the teachings of the Law and the Prophets. (Matt.7:12 TPT)
Jesus is basically describing God’s love. The Greek word is agape, which is best described as “benevolence” (from the Latin bene volentem: to use our volition, or will, for the benefit of another). In other words, God’s love is other-centered and self-giving.
Verse 12 above is what it looks like to walk in other-centered, self-giving love. This is the same love that Jesus walked in. Everything He did, He did for our benefit, not His own. Even His life was guided by His Father’s directives, which were guided by other-centered love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave….” (John 3:16)
This is how God loves within Himself, and how we actually know that we know God.
7 Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of him. 8 The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 TPT*)
So, we can see here that the difference between the authentic followers of Christ and the pretenders is not their theological prowess, or gifting, but the evidence of this agape love in their lives. We let His love continually pour from us…. This is a relational lifestyle we have to practice…or, practice His presence (John 15:9-12). There’s no other way to authentically follow Jesus, for apart from this we can do nothing (John 15:5). Of course, we seem to think we can.
All religion, and too much of what passes as Christianity, is superficial and hypocritical for these reasons. And you can’t just talk about following Jesus, or live it vicariously through your favorite leaders. You must actually follow Him into this cooperative process yourself. But then the fruit of this love will begin to show up in your life. And everyone else will know it.
So, we must move away from being satisfied with a transactional relationship with God by entering into a transformational one. And this gets us to the point Jesus makes in verses 13-14, which is to enter the “narrow gate.”
13 Enter through the narrow gate because the wide gate and broad path is the way that leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road! 14 The narrow gate and the difficult way leads to eternal life—so few even find it!” (Matt.7:13-14 TPT)
What is this gateway, and what makes it narrow? The gateway, of course, is Jesus, and those who enter this Gate will experience His overflowing life! (See John 10:7-10.)
I won’t belabor why this Gate is narrow here since I talked about it extensively (see post, “Why is the Way Narrow?“), only to emphasize that it’s impossible for us to walk in other-centered love as broken humans. And we all come to Jesus broken.
Jesus says His way is difficult. It’s difficult because it’s too easy to just do what everybody else does, which usually means staying in our issues and keeping Jesus at a distance with our religious activity.
Intimacy is very hard because it requires fully surrendering our most vulnerable and hidden selves to the relationship. But the cost of not entering into this process is we stay on the same rollercoaster ride, with the same hang ups and triggers we came to Him with. We’ll mostly just love those who love us, judge others weaknesses based on our strengths. Or, we’ll mistakenly think that “other-centered” love means that “you matter but I don’t,” which is just a self-effacing, or worse, self-abasing counterfeit of true humility. Jesus’ admonition to “deny self” (Luke 9:23) becomes the religious counterfeit—self-denial.
As Paul said to the virtue-signaling Colossians:
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col.2:23 NKJV*)
No, the only way out of our self-centered living is for our hearts to be transformed by Jesus so that we can walk in His love.
Yes, this is what the world needs now, but it’s also why so few find it.