Today’s reading was Mark 8:34-38
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
It has been something of a mantra for the last couple of generations to “be true to your self.” Yet here in this passage, we see a command that contradicts that. According to Jesus, we must “deny ourselves” and that is very counter to the calls for self-actualization, self-realization and so on that have become received wisdom for our society.
I guess the real question behind this, that I would want to ask, is “To which self should I be true?” The sinful, God-opposed, selfish, sometimes angry, sometimes proud self, or the one God wants me to have, my truest self – the one that really does love God and neighbor.
If I take Shakespeare’s quote to heart: To thine own self be true, then I want it to be my blueprint self, the original self that God had in mind for me before sin, the world, and my own foolishness marred the design. That’s a self I can aspire to.
This passage also speaks to our desire for self-preservation. If we want to save our life, we will lose it. I think, in more contemporary language, what Jesus is saying is: if we structure our lives in such a way that our own comfort and safety is preeminent, then we are in danger of losing perspective about what our life is actually for.
Business and military leaders speak of “mission drift” when what the business or unit was originally designed for has morphed into something else, and the original mission becomes somewhat lost or secondary.
For Christians, whose mission is, like Jesus’, to seek and save the lost, we cannot afford the luxury of mission drift, or to be derailed by over-concern about safety and comfort. If we were engaged in a non-critical mission, this would not matter so much. But we are on a lifeboat, on a rescue mission, with eternal lives in the balance. Nothing matters more.
So my simple message this morning is this: Be true to your self (the self that God has called you to be) and remember today is a mission. Don’t let it be just another day.