A few weeks ago at Kairos, Greg asked us to think about what it would look like for us to “spend ourselves” for the sake of others. He talked about the trinity as an example of what it means to give of your own entity and identity for the other. The Christian Trinity is paradoxical, but is essentially a way to understand the different persons of the one being of God. In the recent (semi-controversial) work of theological fiction, The Shack, the trinity is portrayed as a beautifully relational and loving community of persons interwoven, constantly caring for and concerning themselves for each other. I’ve been thinking about what it looks like to “spend myself” for the sake of others, and a few thoughts came to mind.
It reminded me of some thoughts I had as I was reading a book by Rob Bell (which I blogged about here). The church is called to offer ourselves as a type of “eucharist” to a dying and broken world, living out and pointing to the sacrifice of Christ so that others might find redemption and restoration.
It also reminded me of an illustration that I heard my friend Matt share a few years back. Christ followers are called to pour themselves out for others, yet often when that is practiced they find themselves feeling empty and thirsty (Matt demonstrated this by taking a glass of water and dumping it into another glass…we pour ourselves out but quickly find that we are drained and empty). Too often, this means that Christians will either (1) “hunker down” and worry only about being ‘fed,’ ignoring the needs of others in their communities and world or (2) Christians might pour themselves out until they are completely dry and feel completely burned out, exhausted. So, the difficult task becomes being filled while pouring out (Matt demonstrated this with a cup with a hole in the bottom that pours out while still being filled). A great image that has stuck with me, but one I still find difficult to practice.
The final thing that Greg’s talk reminded me off was a passage from the prophet Isaiah (an amazing organization working to build schools in the African country of Angola, RISE International, derives it’s name from this passage).
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:8-10, TNIV)
So, the question is, how can we “spend ourselves” for others without ourselves feeling completely spent? How can we recognize and ‘tap into’ our identity as followers of Christ in order to allow us to care for and concern ourselves with others?