By B.J. Funk —
You and I are cofounders of the “Can’t Admit When I’m Wrong” club. One of us realized its truth first, but I can’t recall if it was you or me. It’s almost unfair how we were selected because, at the time, both of us were terribly young and in control of most things in our lives, so much so that if “you’re wrong” ever dared to challenge us, we rebelled and stomped on the thought immediately. We were too young and immature to understand its implication and too self-centered to actually jump inside of that accusation and allow it to grow us up, soften us, mold us, and bring character and integrity into us. Pride kept us on the peripheral of contentment, and our bodies warmed that spot so often that we felt that’s where we belonged. That cozy nest felt safe. We called it home, but it had nothing to do with a physical space and everything to do with a comfortable place to hide.
As we advanced in age, truth sometimes knocked us down but was never able to keep us down. We only thought we had all the answers that would change the world. Our youth played hide and seek with our soul. We hid when others caught on to our erroneous thinking. We sought another friend, another role model, another anybody who would agree with us, coddle us, side with us and even admire us.
We had to be the biggest and best. Success tantalized our thoughts until we sat down in a big puddle of our broken dreams and idealistic world view.
Now, looking on the other side of broken dreams, we both see life completely differently. The way we acted was an insane search to be noticed, to get that promotion, to be the one that others admired. Do you remember those days?
Somewhere in between carpooling the kids and finishing our degrees, one of us learned to say, “I’m sorry.” That’s huge. It slides into the heart of your opponent with ease and sits down right next to “I forgive you.”
You and I don’t have to be in control. This understanding almost explodes our hearts with joy. We feel free. We don’t always have to be right.
There is one crucial teaching of Jesus that is the hardest for us to accept, even harder for us to do. It’s called dying to self, and it is overlooked by you or me, I can’t recall which. The command rises to the top of the New York Times Best Command List. It is life changing.
One of us, either you or me, tried it for a season, and it didn’t stick. Galatians 2:20 makes it clear that it must stick: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
The words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 place an exclamation mark on this command: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
“When someone ‘spiritually dies to self,’” writes Dr. D.W. Ekstrand, “self ceases to exist – that is, self is no longer the reason for one’s existence. As such, the individual is no longer concerned with ‘his own will or happiness,’ because he is no longer in the picture … he is no longer the center of his own little universe … he no longer continues to arrange the world around himself.”
We cannot admit we are wrong because we have never crucified the old man and died to self. We have continued to be the center of our own universe. Self-love reigns.
“In dying to the self-life,” Ekstrand writes, “we discover the abundant life.”
As Christians, we must do this. If we want our best life ever, we must. If we want to be true Jesus followers, we must. One of us, I’m not sure which, needs to get started.
B.J. Funk is Good News’ long-time devotional columnist and author of It’s A Good Day for Grace, available on Amazon.