Until I know myself, I cannot know others. Until I value myself, I cannot value others.
It is interesting that Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves. In fact, it was the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He told us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It seems important for us to notice that Jesus valued us. He didn’t just demand that we take care of others. He expected that our love and kindness to others would flow out of our identity.
Let me repeat that: Our love and kindness to others should flow out of our identity.
What if it doesn’t? What if it comes out of a sense of duty or some misguided attempt to gain points with God through service? A great deal of “love and kindness” is not natural. Much of it comes because it is demanded or expected. This is what we hear in so many sermons and pep talks. “Get out there and bless others. You’ll get yours in the life to come.” “Jesus commands you to do good, particularly to those in poor nations where the gospel is not widely preached.”
So dutiful and obedient moms and dads pack up their families and move to the mission field. They connect with others who “serve” by giving money and they leave their homes and jobs and extended families. Don’t get me wrong. I am not against missions and evangelism. I believe some are called by God to go and do these things. But when Christian service, even the most sacrificial, comes out of a sense of responsibility instead of identity, things can become pretty difficult.
I have heard so many stories of people who are in great pain on the mission field, or in the church, or in some program the church promoted—because they felt coerced or shamed into service. Some were outright manipulated. Many were deceived about the amount of support they would get. So they struggle apart from their support structures and without adequate means to do well. And they become angry, afraid, and bitter.
I am reading about a blogger who lied about her needs in order to get people to give her money. People are upset. Some gave very generous amounts. But it is interesting to see how people deal with the fraud. It seems to me that those who gave out of their identity, because they are giving people who love to help others, are just shrugging their shoulders and moving on. They are not crushed and will give again. Others, who gave because they were tricked and manipulated, are not so easily soothed. Some want their money back. Some are talking about legal action. Now, I am not suggesting that one group is somehow better. I am simply observing a general pattern. When kindness flows from identity, that identity does not suffer when abused.
You see, knowing who we are helps us know what to do in so many situations. Be true to yourself. Let your action flow out of who you are. When you understand who you are in Christ, your actions will reflect who He is in you.