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Dying to self


Dying to self

Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

For many Christians the phrase “picking up a cross daily” is difficult to understand. Some try to dismiss it as an allegory for facing life’s difficulties. The word “cross” conveys not only death, but a voluntary death (John 10:18). The word “daily” conveys a continual willingness to lay down one’s most precious possession, one’s life (Revelation 12:11).

When I was in the Army (50 years ago) there were common conversations about the merits of various ways of dying. Some would suggest the advantages of infantry because a bullet to the head would be a quick death. Others would caution that a gut wound might take days of agony before death. Some would suggest that an APC (armored personnel carrier) would offer protection from small arms fire, but acknowledged that an RPG to the gas tank could roast you alive. This might sound grim to those without this experience but it was reflected in the TV series Band of Brothers when one soldier said that he was keeping his silk parachute for material for a wedding dress for his fiance. He asked the other soldier if he was shocked that he was so sentimental. The other soldier replied he was shocked to think the first soldier actually thought they going to live to be able to go home.

While some collegiate contemporaries of veterans may turn to nihilism, the prospect of death can be liberating and even peaceful for the vet. The collegiate may develop cynicism and even an anger that fuels a social justice crusade. The vet may find a transcendence that allows him to appreciate even the simple things in life with gratitude. In a way, this is a picture of the transcendence needed to escape the grasp of the world hindering us from freely following Jesus.

The biblical definition of love given in 1 Corinthians 13 is essentially selflessness. This surrender of self is also seen in John 12:25.

In past years I have talked with a number of people who were attempting suicide. Many found the point at which they made a mental break from the life they were living brought a relief from the painful force that was driving them to self-destruction. It is the mental act of disassociation that frees one from a destructive and painful life as well as one so woven into the threads of the world system by ambition, lust, greed, and fear that one can feel there is no escape.

In suicide, the act of disassociation is usually an act of despair and hopelessness. In the Christian life, dying to self is an act of disassociation that is usually accomplished through love. In a way, the path of love is the sublimation of self. It has been said that the cure for the disease of adolescence is parenthood. When a new mother or father picks up their first child, they begin to see that they will forever be placing the interests of another over their own. This is usually the way many learn of the benefit of surrendering self. Consider the example of Jesus;

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.



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