Continued from here.
Maintaining an outward focus is, hands down, the hardest component of the Christian life for me. Humbling myself by deferring my preference as I value others above myself feels as natural as lighting a fire in August or turning on the air conditioning during a snowstorm. And yet, how can I be a disciple of Jesus without an outward focus?
One analogy that keeps coming up in divinity school and elsewhere is about the Dead Sea. The reason the Dead Sea is so salty is that there’s no outlet. The Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea, but then there’s nowhere for that water to go, so it becomes extremely salty, making it difficult to sustain life. This is what happens when we fill with God but don’t maintain an outward focus that provides somewhere for God’s energy to flow.
I used to have a strong upward focus but a weak outward focus, which caused my spirit to become a Dead Sea. I filled up with all of this knowledge about God, but I didn’t apply it. I knew I was supposed to love my enemy, but I did not express any love to my enemy. I knew I should be generous but did not give my money (believing it was my money rather than God’s). I received God’s forgiveness but refused to forgive those who wronged me. I hoarded all that God gave me, and it made me salty.
Let’s use another example … this one from the Bible. God sent manna to the Israelites in the wilderness to feed them daily. He told them not to hoard the manna but to trust that He would provide for them daily. What happened to the manna that the Israelites hoarded in the desert? It became full of maggots and stank. What else fills with maggots and stinks? Dead bodies. Hoarding leads to death, so let’s not hoard all of the knowledge that we amass through our upward focus. Instead, incorporate an outward focus so all you learn about God has somewhere to go – to the people Jesus loved enough to die for.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling under the words, “Got you on my mind.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]