Thursday, March 15, 2012

You Are Second

You've seen the billboards.

And the commercials, and the t-shirts, and the online advertising.

It claims "I am Second."  Supposedly a clever religious marketing slogan to indicate that God is first in purpose and priority, and since I believe that, I'm a Christian.  It's cool, hip, and minimalist, so nobody can really get offended.  And it fits so well with North America's pop theology.

And yes, God is first.  No doubt about it.

But are we really second?  Think about it.

Remember this encounter in the Gospels?

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  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: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."  (Mark 12:28-31)

Or how about the apostle Paul's admonishment from Philippians 2:3:  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

God, others, ourselves.  Isn't that the real order?

Ironically, the "I am Second" campaign reflects the humanistic reality that I'm assuming it's trying to challenge.  We do consider ourselves more important that others, don't we?  Many Americans will admit to some Higher Power being in charge of things, even as they're not eager to cede second place to anybody else.  But those of us who believe that the God of the Bible is first must also believe in the corollary to that doctrine:  God is first.  You are second.  I am further on down the list.

One of the greatest struggles of my life involves believing this and acting on it.  Acknowledging that your needs should come before my own has become profoundly heretical in the American mindset.  We hardly show affinity for each other, let alone affection and - gasp! - love.  Not romantic love, of course, but brotherly love.  The willingness to defer.  The eagerness to help.  The loathing of repayment - with interest.

And guess what - I am not second.  You are.  Even if you selfishly agree with me that you're second.

But don't assume that for too long.  Otherwise I'll have to start praying for your salvation.  Because believing "I am second" is apparently, according to the Bible, as sinful as believing you're first.

Who's on second?  Narcissism tells us what we want to believe.  God's Word tells us the truth.

So, yes, I believe you are second.  Even though sometimes I may not act like I believe it.  So when that happens, please forgive me.  Because technically, to you, I'm second.

We're taught that life isn't supposed to work this way - with others being more important than ourselves.  But things aren't really working out being motivated by our personal selfishness, are they?  Maybe "You Are Second" would be one of those faith things we usually defer to those really spiritual moments in our lives that we don't consider pragmatic for everyday living

So, am I off the hook?  Do I not really have to take being selfless seriously?

Why don't you tell me?

After all, you are second.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim,
    I wondered this very thing the first time I knew what the campaign is. While I love the idea of a collected place of testimonies, I agree with your point. I guess "I am third" just didn't quite have the ring?

    Laura Joseph


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