Martin Luther, the great reformer of the 16th century, taught that man’s human nature is incurvatus in se, a Latin phrase meaning “curved in on itself.” In a word, we are SELF-ABSORBED! Make no mistake, this “curved-in-ness” is the cause of many of the trials and tribulations we face in this life. Remember, the greatest obstacle to living the life God has called us to live is not “out there” somewhere; it is right here, embedded deep within every human heart.
Let me ask you to consider this question for a moment: on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your level of self-absorption—right now, today, right where this finds you? How would those closest to you, those who know you best, rate you?
After honestly evaluating your own level of self-absorption, you may be anxiously wondering if there is any cure for incurvatus in se. As you may have guessed, Scripture provides the answer:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
And there you have it! The cure for incurvatus in se is to shift our focus away from ourselves and toward God and others. The cure for our profound self-absorption is to become other-oriented. Now I understand that this is far easier said than done! Nonetheless, it can be done by shifting our focus away from the self and toward these two commandments that sum up all of the Law and the Prophets: Love God and love people! The more time we spend with God and His Word, the more we will begin bending outward toward others and upward toward God.
By nature, we are bitterly determined to sit upon the throne of our lives. Even after we are saved, by grace through faith, and receive our new nature, we still must consciously surrender our self-worship and self-importance to Jesus every day so that He can take His rightful place in our lives. It is only when we have invited Jesus to sit on the throne of our lives that we can begin bending away from ourselves—blending more and more into the background of our lives—because God has taken center stage.
The more we meditate on our Savior and His overwhelming other-orientation, the more we will begin to model this kind of behavior in our own lives. Our Lord’s other-orientation sought you, caught you, and bought you with His precious blood. He left His throne in heaven to sit upon the throne of your life. And with His last breath and beat of His heart, you were the object of His affection. When He cried, “It is finished” from the cross, He wasn’t saying, “I’m glad that’s over with.” He was uttering the victory cry that caused the earth to shake and the rocks to split, a triumphant proclamation that He had accomplished your salvation!
Remember, the goal of the Christian is to be Christlike. Jesus refused to live for Himself in every way. Even when He was sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking if the terrible cup of God’s judgment could be removed, He closed with these words, “Yet not my will, Father, but Your will be done!” The life of Christ was marked by living vertically (for God) and horizontally (for others). And since we are to be called His followers and disciples, our lives are to be marked by this type of living as well.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!