Thunderstorms and fierce windstorms can cause tremendous damage to trees and property. A recent storm in our area snapped the tops off some trees and uprooted a neighbor’s beautiful maple tree. The tree was pulled out of the earth leaving a gaping hole in the ground and the root system of the tree upended from stability and nourishment.
In a similar way, we are created to find our wholeness and well-being in a life of loving union with God. In that relationship we are to be persons through whom God’s love, mercy, and grace are experienced.
When we are functioning in our design we experience a deep inner stability. When we uproot ourselves from loving union with God moving into rebellion we experience disintegration and instability. Fortunately, in the midst of our rebellion, God continues to love and indwell us. When we step out of relationship with God we experience radical uprooted disruption in our inner being.
The goal God has for our lives is for us to abandon our self-centered views of self and incarnate Christ into the lives of others. Mark 12:30-31 gives us a picture of this truth. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
We think that the first commandment is the most important so we can have tendency to become religious and very spiritual in our love of God. We believe that if we get this part in order then we will be able to love our neighbor. Jesus is saying that the relationship we have of loving union with God is reflected in our relationships to one another.
This is where we have to “put to death” the manipulative and controlling dynamics of the flesh and love others.
The Apostle Paul’s call to us (Colossians 3:9-10) is to put to death the inner dynamics of our fleshly selves by, “…Putting off the old nature with its practices, and put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” This is a call to a commitment to abandon our entire self-referenced self and all it embodies in our relationships.
Detaching from the old nature is the discipline of removing our roots from the soils of our inner idolatries and offering those roots to God. This is a painful and difficult process. Our sinful fleshly selves will resist such detachment with unbelievable power. It will be a literal battle to put them to death.
We will never experience life in loving union with God as long as the roots of our identity, meaning, and value are grounded in something other than God. This radical reorientation is both a putting to death of our selfish self-centered self and putting on our new nature hidden with Christ in God.
How do we begin the process of detachment and uprooting ourselves from our idolatrous attachments?
Take some time with a very simple exercise that can have profound effects in your life and root your heart in Christ.
In many of Paul’s letters he starts with an introduction, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God,” (1 Cor, 2 Cor, Eph, Col, 1 Tim, 2 Tim). Take out Paul’s name and insert yours. Take out the word apostle and insert one of the various roles you fulfill in your life. Read the sentence and see how it reframes every role you have in life. It will remind you that your true fulfillment in each role is a life hidden with Christ in God; and a role in which you are God’s representative in that role. The prayer of your heart as you find yourself returning to your old way of thinking is to say, “Lord, help me to love you more than this.” Enter back into your role with Christ as the center rather than you, let God’s purposes uproot all of your selfish desires.