The Greeks, as so often in human experience, provide us with just the right story about the Me problem, the seed story of selfish. It is the story of Narcissus.
Narcissus was a gloriously handsome young man. All the girls fell in love with him. They adored him, threw themselves at him, treated him like a glamorous celebrity with all the attributes of a god. But Narcissus paid the girls little mind. He rebuffed ignorance and dismissed them. He scorned their adulation. Narcissus had no time for them; he was all the company he needed. He could not waste time on anyone; he required his full attention.
One of the girls (that Narcissus slighted) prayed to the gods for redress, a prayer that was immediately answered. Greek deities love answering these kinds of prayers. The great goddess Nemesis was right there to answer the prayer of the girl with the broken heart; she heard and stepped in to take care of Narcissus. She decreed, "May he who loves no other love himself only.”
One day as Narcissus bent over a pool to get a drink of water, he saw there his own reflection. Wow! He already knew he was important; he knew all the girls were falling all over themselves to get his attention. But he had no idea that he was this good-looking. He fell in love with his reflection immediately. He exclaimed, "Now I know what all those girls see in me, no wonder they are in love with me—I'm in love with me! How can I ever bear to quit looking at such loveliness that is me mirrored in that water.”
Narcissus couldn't tear himself away from his image. Kneeling at the pool he pined away, fixed in one long, adoring gaze. The whole world was reduced to that image, the Narcissus-adoring self. Narcissus got smaller and smaller and smaller, until there was no Narcissus left; he had starved to death on a diet of self. Selfism is suicide. All that is left to this day is a white flower that we call Narcissus, a frail memorial in the cemetery of selfism.
Narcissus would seem to be an unlikely character to show up in companies of Christians. And yet the progeny of Narcissus keep showing up in our communities of created and saved souls. They are so glaringly out-of-place in the context of the biblical revelation defined by the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, one would think that they would be immediately noticed and exposed. More often they are welcomed and embellished, given roles of leadership and turned into celebrities.
It is an odd phenomenon to observe followers of Jesus, suddenly obsessed with their wonderfully saved souls, setting about busily cultivating their own spiritualities. Self-spirituality has become the hallmark of our age. The spirituality of Me. A spirituality of self-centering, self-sufficiency, and self-development. All over the world at the present time we have people who have found themselves redefined by the revelation of God in Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, going off and cultivating the divine within and abandoning spouses, children, friends and congregations.
But holy living, resurrection living, is not a self-project. We are a people of God and cannot live holy lives, resurrection lives, as individuals. We are not a self-defined community; we are a God-defined community. The love that God pours out for and in us creates a community in which that love is reproduced in our love for one another.
We are a God-defined community, not a self-defined community.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. - Romans 5:5
God, please allow me to serve the needs of others over the desires of self.