Talk about a selfish, un-Christlike phrase! Aren’t we supposed to be self-sacrificing followers of Christ? Aren’t we supposed to give of ourselves for the sole purpose of others knowing Christ? Paul calls us to do this very thing, which has been the banner cry for Christians worldwide: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4, NASB). We’re called to be servant leaders, right? Emptying of ourselves in order to fill others.
Um… kind of.
The other day, I was reading a book by Brian Berry, in which he talks about this very concept. He directs the readers’ thoughts to a flight attendant’s preflight safety instructions. If you’ve ever flown on a commercial aircraft, you’ll know this well:
In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically drop from the ceiling. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.
Helping myself before helping my screaming child? This goes against parental instinct. So why do they tell us to do so each time we fly? Because if I save my life first, it will increase the likelihood of me being able to save my child’s life.
Jesus talks about this same concept, a long time before air travel was even possible:
The foremost [commandment] is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lod our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31, NASB).
Love others as yourself. Jesus didn’t say, love others like God loves you or love like you’d want to be loved. Jesus tells us to put on our oxygen mask first before putting on other’s masks for them. He invites us to love ourselves so we can love others effectively.
Jesus even modeled this to us when we went off early in the morning to spend time with God, and he passed up opportunities to love others to take care of himself (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42). And by taking care of himself and his relationship with his Father, he was able to take care of others.
Let’s be Christlike this year and take care of and love ourselves so we can more effectively take care of and love others. Because the best gift you can give someone is a healthy you. The best way you can love another is to love you.
[to read more about this idea and others that might save your life in youth ministry, check out As for Me and My Crazy House, by Brian Berry]