Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This is an often referenced portion of Scripture, and is probably very familiar to us all. It is obviously full of wonderful statements about love, but the thing I’d like to look at more closely is that small little phrase “does not seek it’s own.” This is very literally “is not zealous for itself”, it is translated in the NIV as “it is not self-seeking”
One of the big confusions of our time is that our lives are a journey to finding ourselves. Especially when it comes to love, we look out to see if we are being true to ourselves. This is because, at a fundamental level, we want to worship ourselves. We want to be on a spiritual journey to find ourselves. We want to sort through the rubble in our lives and locate the prize at the bottom: us! We want to obey ourselves – worshipping at the altar of our own convenience, our own enjoyment, our own desires, and our own sacrifices. And all this is just a quest to grow closer to our own little god, the self. Many christians do this in our worship also – as though God is simply here to make us feel better, make our lives easier, and flood us all with the warm fuzzies of self acceptance. But the fact is that we are broken, and our “selves” are corrupt.
You can’t have yourself for wanting. Pursuing yourself will always leave you needing, demanding, fantasizing, coveting, fussing, hurting, and bickering. No matter what you do, at the end of the day, if it was done unto yourself it will not be of value. It is not love. Self- seeking is not love. Self seeking in having children is not love. Wanting to fill your own arms with adoption is not love. Relishing the feelings of your own hurt as you reach out to the needy is not love. Watching yourself minister to others is not love. Enjoying your self sacrifice is not love. Embracing the feeling you get when you are not selfish is not love, it is simply a more elaborate way to seek yourself. Focusing on the hurt, the shame, the needs you feel as you try to minister to others means that you are trying to use others to minister to yourself. The reality is that as we seek ourselves, look into our own eyes, pursue our own truths, we are simply being disobedient.
When we love, truly – when it is not self seeking, then we are sacrificing. Then it is our own little uncomfortable selves that we have put on the altar. That is obedience.When we obey, when the driving force in our lives is obedience, then we have become Christ’s own body. Our identity is in Christ, because we are not seeking after ourselves. Pursue obedience to find yourself. Pursue Christ to reach others. Worship God to know who you are. When we obey scripture, when we sacrifice our own little “selves” in obedience to God, we are full of love. But we do not love because it is who we are, we love because it is who He is. At a fundamental level, it is our own identity that changes. This is what is meant by our “identity in Christ.” That is true love.