Selfish God

October 7, 2009

“Selfishness” is a trait that we look down upon. It is probably a vice, and certainly not a virtue. There are other noble qualities that are inherently incompatible with selfishness – charity, courage, and above all, humility. We as humans however are more familiar with selfishness than these other lofty qualities. One of the first words that a child utters is ‘cookie’, and very soon after that, ‘Mine!’ We are led to associate selfishness as infantile, and consider it as stemming from ignorance.

It seems like outright heresy, then, to attribute God as being selfish.

But let us examine the evidence. Countless times in scripture, God declares “for MY own glory”, or “for my sake”. (First chapter of “Let the Nations be Glad” by John Piper has a pretty good list of verses that demonstrates this.) It seems that everything that Yahweh does is for His own glory! Isn’t that a tad bit selfish? There are other ways to demonstrate that God is selfish. First, does God love you? Yes. Second, does God love Himself? Yes. Then which one does He love more, you or Himself? Himself. In fact, is there anything else that God loves more than Himself? No, there isn’t. Therefore, God is selfish.

But how can Christians take this concept of God’s selfishness and jealousy for His own glory, with the picture of the humble King who would suffer at the hand of sinners? We are told by evangelical pastors that God loves us, and that He died because he loves us. But if God is indeed selfish, He loves us, yes, but He died primary because He loved himself! How can God be both selfish and Love?

The answer lies, I think, in Trinity. This is one paradoxical doctrine of Christianity that unites these two disparate characteristics, that other monotheistic religions lack and therefore unable to harmonize. God in three persons. That is why Him being selfish is also Him being loving; there isn’t a distinction between these two characteristics. Glimpses of this can be seen in our own experience. When a loved one dies, our souls are in anguish, not only because we will not see the loved one, but also because we feel as though a part of ourselves has died as well. Is this being selfish? By the strictest of definitions, yes, but we would not fault this type of selfishness that is fueled only by love. At the deepest level of love, the lines of identity are blurred. Even on earth we say to our lovers “Love you? I am you!” In heaven, in trinity, this is literally true.

I love what Anne Rice writes in her historical fiction of Christ. As Jesus begins His ministry, he quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” He has healed the wounded (Peter’s mother), called the outcasts of the society (tax collectors), and refreshed the hearts of men (water into wine). And after all this, Jesus declares in a loving, caring way this thunderous truth – that God is One. There is this jealousy for God’s glory, that is inseparable from the very nature of His love. This also demonstrates that it is actually beneficial for us that God is all-consumed for His love. We are healed, and reunited, and satisfied only because God is selfish for His own glory. We are healed by the very wounds that Christ endured for His namesake. We are reunited to God only by the Father turning His face away from the Son, for His own glory. We rejoice because Christ has endured the cross for the joy set before Him.

JR Smith, is a talented shooting guard for my DENVER NUGGETS, who has made some bad mistakes off-court. Things took a tragic turn when he failed to stop at a stop sign and the accident resulted in the death of his best friend Andre Bell who was riding with him in the car. This last month, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail. Yeah, seems kinda light doesn’t it? I mean, his mistake cost a person’s life. But what’s even more amazing was the reaction of Wanda Bell (Andre Bell’s mother) during the court hearing. “Wanda Bell wandered over to Smith at the court hearing, giving him a hug and telling him that she loved him. She can’t hold a grudge, not against someone who meant so much to her son.” This man’s mistake cost the life of her son, and yet she tells him that she loves him. This I think is sort of how the cross works. I for one am glad that God the Father selfishly loves God the Son, for this means life for me.


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