Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Greatest Altruism...

We see people offer to help out and be kind to each other routinely in life, whether in the workplace, on the roads, at schools etc. It seems it’s no big deal and there certainly is very little that separates the Christian from the Christian non-believer in this respect.

Yet, is there a deeper issue at hand? Like, what is it that motivates each person? Is the good deed done simply to accrue some form of kudos or is it done for some other reason? (And, up front, sometimes I guess there doesn’t even need to be a reason.)

Altruism: unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.[1]

The best sense of altruism is the one where there are definitely no strings attached, and where we do it simply for the glory of God, really!

This sense of true altruism is often painful and uncomfortable at first, requiring real faith, but afterwards we often get what we don’t expect--and it’s good. I love what Eugene Peterson has alluded to here:

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary--we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”

–Romans 5:3-5 (Msg).

Although in a way opportunities at altruism don’t reveal troubles per se (as mentioned above), they do reveal the same result from our faith. We’re filled to brimming with the anointing of the Holy Spirit as a result of our faith-filled actions.

The greatest altruism is done with no strings attached and simply for God’s pleasure. It’s particularly striking (as the above passage from Romans shows) when it comes through adversity... when we’d hardly want to give of ourselves or our resources for others’ gain.

Yet, it’s the most sensible thing to do in our hardships and misfortune, because it reduces any of the available pity we might otherwise be tempted to ‘inflict’ upon ourselves. An act of authentic altruism is hence, the perfect solution.

When we stand to hurt most in our generosity we also stand to be blessed most, but paradoxically, that is the furthest thing motivating our love. Our motives can be pure when we place ourselves genuinely on the backburner.

And we find the way of Jesus’ paradoxical love right in the midst of these moments. He relates (with us and to us) as he did in going to the cross--which is the greatest ever and the supremely ultimate act of altruism; the unsurpassable, single act of salvation.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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