Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blessed Self-Forgetfulness

"I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."
-1 Corinthians 4: 3-4

On Sunday night, we listened to a fantastic Tim Keller sermon (really though, they're all fantastic). The title of his sermon was "Blessed Self-Forgetfulness" and even though it was recorded in 2002 and I picked it out pretty randomly out of dozens of options, it felt like those words were meant just for me. 

Blessed Self-Forgetfulness. I've been repeating this phrase to myself over the last few days and praying for it to become a part of me. You see, as humans we are everything but self-forgetful. Keller points out that we are so driven by our egos, by what others think of us, by what makes us feel good. We are so self-focused that "every triumph and every slight has the potential to send us either into pride or despondency." We rely so heavily on the opinions of the world, and on our own opinions of ourselves.

The Apostle Paul has proposed another way--to forget ourselves. If we can cease caring what other people think of us, but even more importantly, cease caring what we think about ourselves. Doesn't that sound absolutely foreign? As Keller puts it, "[Paul] is moving into territory that we don't know anything about." This isn't how we naturally work. 

It's important to note that Paul is not encouraging low self-esteem or self-loathing. Absolutely not. "It's not thinking more of yourself, not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." Now doesn't that sound refreshing? Feeling free from your own thoughts and judgments about yourself? Keller actually remarks on the freedom we would receive from being in this state of mind, as he calls it at one point, "the blessed rest of self-forgetfulness."

You see, it is His opinion only that counts. Not mine or yours. There is so much peace in this way of being. The next time I catch myself focusing on something about me, or thinking too hard about what someone else might think, I'm going to try to remember the last line of this sermon: "I don't care what you think, I don't care what I think, I only care what the Lord thinks, and He has said 'You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.'" And I'm going to keep praying for the blessed rest of self-forgetfulness.


  1. This is a powerful and deep argument.

    In addition to the "ego" element you describe, another thing that makes it so hard for modern people in particular to let go a bit in the healthy ways you describe is the notion that we have to tightly control and manage everything -- our lives, our children, our neighbors, the future. At least Paul and his contemporaries had a little more of the classical understanding that there are forces in life we can't orchestrate. (And not just scary things. Many of the things we can't dictate are beautiful, like the powerful innate nature of every child, though we sometimes lose sight of those beauties when we insist on driving the train.)

    Trying to over-manipulate human beings--including ourselves--is a kind of vanity, and can lead to deep frustration and even tyrannizing. You are wise to want to soften this natural impulse that we all have, and with God's help you will succeed.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Kate! I've heard of Dr. Timothy Keller but never actually heard him so today while Anna napped I got to hear part of it. Refreshing!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Kate! I've heard of Dr. Timothy Keller but never actually heard him speak so today during Anna's nap I listened to part of it. Wow! Refreshing!

  4. This is such a wonderful comment and addition to the post. Thanks :) The idea that we could be missing/losing out on so much beauty as a result of our need to control is a scary thought, and another compelling reason to stay God-focused, not self-focused.

  5. Oh I'm so glad you had a chance to listen to a little bit today, Sarah! Isn't he gifted? We try to listen to one each Sunday and it's always such an eye-opening 30 minutes for us.

  6. Oh ha! There is my other comment! -Couldn't find it, woops. :) Yes, he is gifted. We haven't been to church in 3 weeks for various reasons so this was really enjoyable. Well, it's good thoughts anytime just especially welcomed right now. Looking forward to hearing the rest later.


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