[Jesus speaking to his new disciples] “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
We spend so much time as humans trying to find ourselves, seek out our purpose, and discover who we are about. Personal identity is so important to us. One of the first questions asked by people we meet is about who we are. We are taught that our knowledge, skills, wealth, and the people we know define us.
What if all that is a lie? What if our worth to mankind, to an employer, to ourselves was not based on who we are but on what we stand for, or better yet, who we stand for? Despite the importance that we put on our self-identity, very few people can honestly or sincerely answer the question: “Who are you?” We all struggle to impress others with our own understanding of ourselves, but what difference does it really make? If we cannot ever truly understand ourselves, then why do we waste so much time trying to figure us out?
Would we not be more productive spending our time and energy seeking God, rather than ourselves? Would we not be more productive focusing on uplifting others rather than trying to stroke our inner egos? The world tells us that we cannot be successful unless we first know ourselves. What does that actually mean? People with big egos, people that “know” themselves may appear to be charismatic, celebrities, powerful politicians, or prosperous captains of industry; yet most of these people live behind failed marriages, bodyguards, and overbearing schedules. As Jesus warned, they may have found their life, but at what cost? They have lost their ability to truly live and most pass away from this world having done little good, being known as dictators, greedy thugs, and altogether selfish people. Putting so much effort on ourselves never produces good for others and in the end, we become trapped in our own creation. We have defined ourselves into something that we were never meant to be and we are held hostage by the image we created.
The good news is that there is another way. When Jesus said that if we lose our life for His sake we will find it, He was not just talking about being willing to die for what we believe in. He was talking about what we would be willing to live for; a life lived in pursuit of God, a life that puts others before us. The call is not that we must die physically, but that we must put away our own desires, that we must live for a greater pursuit than our own selfish wants.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus tells us that “we cannot serve two masters.” We cannot pursue our own desires while also pursuing the higher calling to help and love others. When we decide to lose ourselves, our eyes can then be opened to a whole new life. Those who are unwilling to accept this may call the new life a life of sacrifice, but what are we truly sacrificing? Nothing, compared to what will be gained. A life lost to ourselves and opened to others is a life without fear of losing all we have worked for. It is a life measured by what we can bring to the world as opposed to measuring success by what we can take from the world.
There are only two paths before us and we must each choose which one we want to follow. The world’s path is a path filled with self-loathing as we stumble around trying to figure out who we are and why we are here. Jesus showed us a different path. If we follow Him, our life can be spent living rather than worrying. Christ has given us the authority to be set free from the chains of this world. He simply asks us to change the question; instead of asking “Who are we?” we should ask, “Now that we are here, how can we help?” Either way, we are only on this earth for a short while and nothing will change that. What we do have control over is how we spend our days. Will we be known for who we are or for what we have done? The choice is ours, but don’t spend too much time pondering this question. Now is not the time for self-reflection, guilt, or reliving past mistakes. These things are all just examples of seeking the wrong things, of still living as if who we actually matter. The past is gone, but now we can live free in pursuit of a different path, a more worthy path than ourselves could ever imagine or define.