Three Letters or Four, You Choose
Today I want to examine two words. But first, let’s look at what what makes them different. In Dr. Seuss’ book “Red Fish, Blue Fish”, there is a character named “Ish.” Ish carries a dish and magically on the dish appear fish. So if you have an “Ish” it will bring you fish on the ish fish dish. Any Dr. Seuss fans?
Well the word “ish” has numerous meanings. Dictionary.com says, “addicted to,” or “inclined or tending to.” It, is a word that is usually an add on to words like “freakish, Spanish, or babyish.”
The second word is “less.” Less is often defined as a smaller amount, but I like another definition, By now you may have probably guessed the two words I am contrasting. They are selfish and selfless. The definition of selfish is, “devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” When you look at the definition of selfless it is simply, “unselfish.” Why am I looking at these two words? Because our culture is filled with an epidemic of selfishness. Just three little letters change everything.
Jesus spoke so often about the subject, I am hard pressed to only give one example. Time and time again, Jesus is clear. Life is not about us. Romans 5 and Philippians 2 tell us that Jesus was all about selflessness. He preached being kind and caring in so many of His stories. He was all about giving and yet, Jesus called people to leave what they were preoccupied with and follow Him. That has been one of my most sad discoveries. So many people are simply caught up in their preoccupied selfish ways. So many like what they like and by no means should anyone consider asking them to do anything different.
I would love to say that those who follow Jesus are different, but I can’t. Some churches have turned into their own private clubs. Sometimes it’s like a country club, other times it is just a club based on whatever those folks have in common, even when the idea that unites them is that they are together in a noble last stand to exist. Churches battle against one another over everything from doctrine to practice. Some believe they are the only ones who do this right or that right.
Take heart, Jesus battled against this same thinking, so who are we to think such things change. I do wonder though… what does a church look like that welcomes anyone… what does a church look like that is always willing to leave 99 to seek the lost one… what does a church look like that treats its’ own people with grace and forgiveness… what does a church look like that is not concerned with what “the membership” wants, but is primarily concerned about getting people to come meet Jesus for the first time… what does a church look like that is about mission and evangelism and not about members and money… what does that church look like?
Some church leaders and members are afraid to really look carefully at those questions. Are any churches aware that they truly operate as selfish bastions of homogeneous folks? That would be radically brave…and unusual (maybe that would be considered a minor miracle). It would take a lot more “less” and a lot less “ish.”
I pray that as a church leader, I am leading people toward selflessness and away from selfishness. I believe that I am accountable for that and I pray that other churches and church members will feel the same way.