The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Recently, at a women’s brunch, I brought with me a mirror. With its swan neck curved handle and embossed M on the back it is the only heirloom I have of my grandmother Maude Jackson. As I reflected on it (pardon the pun..!) it struck me that in its reflection it had seen many changing times. Maude Jackson, born at the turn of the century, was at a pivotal change of thinking concerning self image and a sense of identity. While right up to the end of the 20th century the prevailing worldview was that having too high a view of oneself, showing hubris and pride, was the root cause of all evil. However this traditional view has been turned upside down in 21st century thinking where society believes too low a view of ourselves and the lack of self esteem is now the root of all our troubles.

This is the premise from which Tim Keller’s excellent short book “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness” begins and got us asking could you explain to someone else how the gospel can (and should) transform our sense of identity?

In 1 Corinthians 3v21-4v7 there is division. Some are taking pride in Paul, some Apollos, some Cephas. But Paul presents a transformed view of self in chapter 4v1-4;

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 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.

Paul does not care what they think of him. Paul does not care what anybody thinks of him. But crucially, Paul does not care what he thinks of himself. He has a very low opinion of his opinion. For a truly humble gospel person, Tim Keller argues, is not a self-hating person, nor a self-loving person but a self-forgetful person. Not thinking more of myself or less of myself, simply thinking of myself less.

The world is full of mirrors passing judgement on us but it is the Lord who judges. And it is only the gospel of Jesus Christ where we get the verdict before the performance. The trial is over. The courtroom is gone. The ultimate verdict is in. Only His opinion counts. Because of the cross, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

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