Salvation: Deliverance from Selfishness into Love

2 Cor. 5:17.---' Wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.' This is St. Paul's definition of a Christian. It is so startling that it makes us do some hard thinking. 'If any man is in Christ, there is a new creation,' a new kind of man, a different kind of man. He is not merely changed on the surface, not merely one who gives up on some bad habits, or forms some new habits, or takes on some extra duties, or begins to do a bit of service. Some of these things may be a sign of a man's Christianity, but the essence of it is a radical change; it runs right down to the roots of life. It is a change of heart, of nature. Some people tell us that you cannot change human nature. If that is so we had better give up Christianity for good. For that is precisely what it sets out to do. If it does not do that it has no more real power than any good system of morals.

Christ did not come into this world to patch up an old religion, merely to mend a hole here, and beautify a spot there, and add a touch to this part or that; He came to make all things new. And when He saves a sinner, He does not propose merely to mend up a little here and there, to cover over some bad spots in him, and to close up tears in his character by strong patches of the new cloth of grace. Christ does not sew on pieces; He weaves a new garment without seam throughout.

What is this difference? Is it not just this, that a Christian is living not with self, but with love for others, at the center if his being? He has ceased to have self on the throne and has begun to think of others, to FEEL WITH others. This sounds very simple and very commonplace. But it runs very deep; it is a difference at the very fount of our nature. To realize how deep it runs we have only to think of what we call the 'natural man'---never in reality escaping the mentality of only the strong survive, however refined he may be. He thinks of himself, his rights, his possessions, his reputation, even his own perfection. You find this selfishness working out in all kinds of ways. You find it in the thoughtlessness of the scoundrel, who does not care what harm his vicious habits may be doing to others; but you find it also in the man for whom other people are mere instruments to his own comfort and ease. You find it in the man who seeks power and wealth for himself; but you find it also in the man who is out for goodness and perfection for the subtle gratification of feeling that he has reached a higher level than others. All that outlook belongs to what Paul calls the 'natural man.'

But now look at the new creation; he is not thinking only of his own rights, but also of the rights of others, of their right to manhood and womanhood, to friendship and love. He is not out seeking for his own advantage; he seeks to serve God and his fellows as life opens up opportunities. He is not conscious of a goodness of his own, for generally he does not believe he has any; he is only conscious of the Love that fills his heart and longs to help others to know it too. For the chief mark of the new nature is that its goodness is spontaneous; its duty is not a calculated or mechanical service. It is like a spring rising freely by its own inner impulse from some deep source within the heart.

This, then, is what it means to be saved. It is to be saved out of a life of which self is the center, into a life of which love is the center. Real salvation is deliverance from selfishness in all its forms, into love in all its forms. One of the biggest things that could happen at this moment in the Church's and the world's life is that people should come to see that sin is selfishness, selfishness appearing in pride and self-will and wrong ambition and greed and censoriousness and all manner of uncharitableness. That is the root of all sin---just selfishness; for it is the denial of our true nature as the children of the Father and as members of His family. The real test of our nearness to God is the way we feel about one another.

This experience makes a new world. 'Old things are passed away; behold they are become new.' The trouble with us is that in our self-centered outlook we do not see the real world. Very few of us are conscious of things as they are, so blinded are we by illusion, by pride, by selfishness. Neither things nor people are able to show their true face to us. A psychologist says that most people go about the world half-conscious---that is, only half-alive to reality. Only one person was fully conscious---Jesus Christ. And when we see Christ, His love tears away the veils; there is a new look about everything. The old prizes of life, as we thought them, lose their glamour; wealth and position are no longer in the first place. The call to service that was a troublesome spur to conscience becomes the joyful music of His voice. We see people with new eyes, as the children of God, our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. It is a new world, all through, to which Christ brings us; and only the changed heart can enter and live in it.

That is why the Sermon on the Mount sounds such impossible doctrine to the man who is looking at it from the outside. 'Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Judge not that ye be not judged. If any man compel thee to go a mile with him, go with him twain.' What a world it is! Its glistening peaks seem to shine with such impossible splendor and such cold, hard perfection that men look at it and pass it by. But it was Christ's description of the kind of life that would be lived by those whose hearts had been won by Him and changed from selfishness and pride to Christlikeness. It is not easy, indeed, for these. It demands a constant expulsion of self by love; a constant fellowship with Him in which pride is broken and hardness softened, and the eyes kept open to God, who meets us everywhere. But it is the way of life in the new world which Christ makes possible and into which He brings us.

It is only by people with this changed heart that Christ's kind of civilization is going to be brought in. The unregenerate world in which we live demands from success in it such qualities as love of power, the spirit of gain, the hardness that is steeled against the sufferings of others, the self-centered, aggressive nature that refuses to let anyone stand in our way: these are the qualities that wins success in the world that now is. And so long as these qualities hold sway, so long will it remain what competition, pride, and selfishness have made it. Under whatever system of government, the world can be no better, no sweeter, no cleaner than the hearts of the people who run it. The aggressive, self-centered spirit, either of the classes or the masses, will never make it new. It is the new humanity which will make the new world, and Christ came to make both new.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha