“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
Wait, that’s not right, is it.
These are popular topics in secular and Christian culture today. You’ll find them talked about in Christian books. Christian articles. Christian podcasts. I’ve even been to a Christian conference where the main speaker spent two entire main sessions speaking about me-time and self-care. Sometimes it seems we are living in the midst of not only a viral pandemic, but a self-worship pandemic as well.
And while we should be responsible with the earthly bodies God has given us during our time here on earth, we should be careful not to forget that a life imitating and following Christ is a life of sacrifice…not a life of rest and self-care.
I’ve been spending time learning more about Jesus’ humanity this summer. I have been struck by how Jesus lived a life of perfect sacrifice not only in His death, but His life as well. He was constantly surrounded by people who wanted to hear His teachings, people who wanted to experience His healing, and people who wanted to kill Him. A lot of people. All the time.
Matthew 13 begins by telling us:
“That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.”
Some quiet time by the sea- that does sound nice doesn’t it! Can’t you hear the waves lapping at the shore and feel the warm breeze brushing against your skin! But then this peaceful moment is interrupted as large crowds come onto the beach to see Him. Jesus gets into a boat and sails into the water. If I’m honest, there are days where I likely would have just kept sailing.
Too many people.
Need to protect my boundaries.
Don’t feel like being a people person right now.
But Jesus, as fully God and fully man, lived a life of sacrifice. A life devoted to saving lost souls and teaching about God. He was constantly putting the needs of others above His own.
Paul exhorts us in Philippians 2 to be like Christ:
“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 for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thin to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
A life following Christ will mean sacrificing our desires for rest, leisure, me-time, and self-care to shepherd and care for the souls around us. It will mean counting others as more important than ourselves. Looking out for the interests of others. Imitating His sacrificial life, and therefore emptying ourselves as a living sacrifice. This will be hard and uncomfortable. It will require dependence on the Holy Spirit and rejecting the me-centered culture we are immersed in. But a life imitating Christ will be a life full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
“But Jackie”, I know some will say, “don’t you know that the Bible also says that Jesus took time to be alone? Matthew 14:23 says He went up on the mountains alone to pray.” This is true. I pray that the Spirit would make me more like Christ who, even when He retreated to be alone, often spent the time in prayer to the Father.
How often does our Me-Time include time in the Word and prayer?
How often does our Me-Time instead follow the current of what Christian culture defines as self care?
I once saw a book in the front display of a Christian bookstore. It was a lovely looking book with beautiful calligraphy so, naturally, I opened it to take a look. Inside, the author wrote out what she called “15 ways to care for your soul.” It read:
This is what we are being told it means to care for our souls.
This book has 4.5 stars on Amazon with nearly 500 reviews. I have seen it available at Target and Barnes and Noble. The author has nearly 20,000 instagram followers and is endorsed by a well known Christian women’s ministry.
I wonder what the apostle Paul would think of this list.
I can imagine him sitting on a cold prison floor after he was beaten and stoned as he worked to advance the Gospel. Even in such unrestful circumstances, he continued to focus not on himself, but on Christ and encouraging fellow believers. He likely wasn’t thinking that he should get more sleep and eat something refreshing.
While I do enjoy a tasty watermelon and looking at fresh flowers, following this list will not refresh our souls. These are blessings from God, and are okay to enjoy and praise Him for in the sweet moments He provides them for us! But these things will not make us more like Christ. These things will not produce spiritual fruit (except the two mentions of time in prayer and the Word…but those weren’t mentioned until halfway through the list!).
The One who was worthy of all worship spent His life sacrificing His own comfort to bring life to others and salvation to lost souls. May we not buy into the lie that self-focused me-time and self-care is a fruit of the Spirit, and instead pursue living a life of sacrifice.