This is a first for me, as generally I loathe apologetics.
But I felt strongly that I needed to bring this up. Maybe someone needs it, or maybe I just need to get this off my chest; I don’t know.
In many religions/schools of thought, the concept of dying to self is something to strive for. In Christianity it’s considered not only Christlike (which is, after all, the ultimate goal for those who are sincere about it), but a requirement. I’ve been wondering lately how much, and how often, semantics come into play and misguide us. I don’t believe that “dying to self” means being dead on the inside, or allowing ourselves to be abused. And I believe that’s a hugely important distinction.
When we allow ourselves to be perpetually mistreated, gritting our teeth and telling ourselves we’re good people and that God is proud of us for putting up with it, we allow the existence and growth of harm. When we willingly participate in our own abuse, we allow evil to gain ground in our world.
Jesus left two commandments: to love him, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. To extrapolate: if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love our neighbors.
If we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love our neighbors.
We can try, we can give it our best shot, but it’s not the same if we don’t love ourselves.
To further extrapolate: if we don’t love ourselves, we’re disobeying one of the two fairly simple laws given us.
If as Christians we believe that “the greatest of these is love,” but continue to allow the perpetuation of harm, is that love?
Dying to self means dying to sin. It means seeing things through the eyes of Christ. It doesn’t mean knocking yourself down so that you’re meaningless. It doesn’t mean allowing others to do it, either.
Jesus Christ was no pushover. He didn’t place himself above others — he also didn’t put up with random nonsense. (See also: furiously overturning the money changers’ tables and the dove seller’s seats in the temple.) We all know that suffering is simply a part of life. But discernment–which is, lest we forget, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit–is crucial. We’ve got all these tools at our disposal, and it makes me heartsick to see good, intelligent people keeping themselves down by remaining in situations that are harmful, all while saying that it’s God’s will.
I don’t believe God wants us to wade through mud and filth unnecessarily. I believe he wants us to learn our lessons, learn to soar, and help others to do the same.
You may disagree, and I’m interested in your views. What I’m not interested in are slams against Christianity (I don’t tolerate slams against any religion, so my own is also out of the question).