Saturday, December 19, 2015

John 12:25-27 -- On How to Save a Life

"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour."
John 12:25-27

It's kind of the opposite of the way that we usually think about our lives, the idea that putting ourselves first isn't the best idea, and that being willing to lose our lives or give our lives in the service of others is a noble thing.  In our society we often learn that self-sacrifice is equivalent to "doormat" status, or that we need to put ourselves first for our own well-being.  God's message is different.  If we love our lives, he says, then we should be willing to lose them, and putting eternal life first is a good idea *even* when it means that we temporarily hate our current lives.  (I say temporary because of Mormon 9:14, which I think clearly tells us that God wants us to learn to be happy in our current lives.)  I think part of the trick to grasping this different perspective is thinking about generosity and giving to others.  When we give a gift freely, without compulsion or pressure or expecting something in return, it's a taste of joy to know that we did something for someone else... and I think that is because we're putting other people's lives before our own.  We're getting our priorities straight.  When we put ourselves first, all we really accomplish is stressing ourselves out about stuff... what we "deserve" or what we want/need or what we think will make us happy, although we are so often wrong.  In Luke 6:30, Christ admonishes us "Give to every man that asketh of thee."  It's turning things around and thinking about what can we give, rather than what we should be getting.  And I think a natural consequence of these perspectives is that one leads to happiness and the other leads to us making ourselves crazy. :)
In a very dramatic example of this lesson, Christ worries in the last verse because he is going to have to be in a lot of pain, and he is going to have to leave his family and friends, and die.  He knows this, and it causes him emotional and spiritual pain.  If he were putting himself first at this point, he would walk away.  But, for others, he is willing to go through with the plan, at enormous personal cost.  None of us are going to suffer what Christ suffered when he paid the price for our sins.  It's more than we could possibly bear as mortals, even if we wanted to try.  But we do face similar choices... between doing what we want and what God wants/what is right.  Life is scary sometimes, and we want to run away... but just as Christ worked towards the hour of his own death in order to save us, even the bad parts of our lives are part of the plot that leads us to our happy ending... the experience that molds us into the people we came to earth to become.  And the answer is clear.  It's thinking in superhero terms: saving someone else's life is exactly how to save our own.  The work of doing good *makes* us good. 
We don't have to hate ourselves or live depressed lives to please God... the point is the perspective and the priority.  If we look forward to eternal life, we'll make better choices, and if we put other people before ourselves, we'll become who we need to be.  Today, let's put God first, and not run away from the difficult lessons.

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