Reading Romans 14:7-12
Well, it’s good to back after covid, particularly having to isolate in my study to keep the rest of the household safe. It was so 2020. But during my incarceration I couldn’t help remembering the awfulness of that covid time, when the world was quite a scary place. We saw the best of people, didn’t we? We saw people risking their lives to treat people very ill with this new virus. We saw captain Tom walking around his garden. We saw people volunteer in their thousands to help. But we also saw the worst in people as well. I’ll never forget, early on in the pandemic, going to a local shopping centre to get the weekly shop in. And for whatever reason, people had decided there was a toilet roll shortage. People began to bulk buy toilet roll and this was before the shops caught on that they would need to control how much products people bought. I remember seeing people rushing into the shops and coming out laden with hundreds of toilet rolls. I witnessed one man with a red Porsche struggling to get all his purchased loo roll in, he must have got 200 rolls just for himself. Disgusting, wasn’t it? I was so angry – particularly as we were told repeatedly that there was more than enough as long as people stopped bulk buying. I hope they all got carpet burn from all that toilet roll. That seems to be the way with people, doesn’t it? We are either driven to selfishness or selflessness. We are either driven to hording or to sharing. We are either driven to evil or to love.
Right in that moment, so much easier to see in the covid crisis, you can see what being fallen really means, and it is something we can all be guilty of. There is a temptation in every human heart to selfishness, to look out for number one, and care nothing for others but only for ourselves.
In our first reading we hear from Paul’s letter to the Romans. In it we see Paul explaining what it is to be Christian. A Christian is to be self-given to God, and God in turn gives Himself to us. Discipleship is learning to do that more and more. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves, Paul says, we live to the Lord. Whatever happens to us, whether we live or die, we are to be the Lords, who is Lord of the both the living and the dead. The problem in our culture is that we are taught to give ourselves to ourselves. To promote ourselves, to keep the best for ourselves, to think only of ourselves. But for Christians we are to be given to God. To be a living sacrifice. Not only is this very difficult it is utterly counter cultural.
You see selfishness leads to judgement and despising other people. You can see people despising others all the time at the minute. The problem with this, despite how deserved that judgement may or may not be, is that we reach the end of selfishness, where we put ourselves in the place of God. Where what we think, desire or judge is the right thing, because we think it. Don’t we see this all the time? Just read a newspaper or look at social media and see all the experts tell you exactly what is wrong with other people with absolute conviction. Rather than have the humility to not know all the answers, to not judge, but rather to love. Paul tells us that we are not to judge but let God be God. He says Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. We are not to put ourselves in the place of God, which is the core of all sin.
As Christians we must resist the temptation of selfishness and live for God and for neighbour. We will get this wrong, its really hard, but when that selfishness comes in, when we catch ourselves judging others, when we catch ourselves hording loo roll, when we catch ourselves despising other people God created, turn back, turn back to God and give yourselves once more to Him. As disciples, when we give ourselves to God we find peace, joy and love. And that peace, joy and love radiates out to a cold world so busy in the pursuit of evil, of judgement, of hate. Let’s commit ourselves to the counter cultural ideal of being Gods servant, throw aside the shackles of selfishness and find the light and love of Christ, the only thing that can ever warm this cold world of sin. Amen