9. The core of the problem

We’ve seen that the keeping of the law of selfless love brings God’s endless life to a person. But now let’s look at the other side of that. The breaking of the law, with its origin in self-centeredness, brings death–that is, it cuts us off from the fountain of life. What are we talking about here?

Being self-centered means “me first,” making sure my felt needs are met. It can even include looking after people who are important to me; but self-centered people often miss seeing what others need because they are busy with things that affect themselves.

At its worst, being self-centered leads to hurting others; but more often it means missing opportunities to bring them happiness and help or being selective about who is helped. It’s often just a preoccupation with self in the nicest way. Sometimes self-centered people are good to others because it’s expected or it makes them feel good about themselves. It is not safe to judge others’ motives, but if we are honest, we have to admit ours are not always completely pure.

The word used in the Bible for breaking the law of love by putting your interests before others’ is “sin.” Now we can see that sin is much more than lying, stealing, or killing. It could be failing to share something that’s rightfully ours with someone who needs it. Whatever form it takes,

Sin is the transgression [breaking] of the law. (1 John 3:4)

And there is only one result from sin:

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

That’s any breaking of the law of unselfish love. Any moment of choosing to put oneself first leads to death. Think of a crane with a heavy metal ball hanging from a long chain. It only takes the failure of one link for a moment to break the chain, and the ball falls. But who has never been self-centered for a moment? So, not surprisingly,

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

It still seems unreasonable though, doesn’t it? Of course we all have moments of self-centeredness. Many of us put ourselves first a lot of the time, even with the best intentions. How can God expect otherwise? But you see, it wasn’t supposed to be that way, and it wasn’t always that way. This is where the Bible tells a story radically different from what many of us were raised to believe.

Briefly, God designed and created human beings perfectly selfless, loving, and happy, able to live forever. Each person was given free choice, (because forced love means nothing) but the original human beings used their free choice to disbelieve and disobey God’s law of love and life.

In our genes now is a tendency towards self-centeredness which only God can empower us to defeat. And because we live in a world where looking after “number one” is normal, we don’t realize what destructive potential one sin, or act of self-centeredness, has. In nuclear fission, it only takes splitting the nucleus of one tiny uranium atom to start a chain reaction and make a mega-explosion. It’s something like that. Certainly there is a mega-difference between living forever and not living forever. Like the one broken chain link or the one split atom, it only takes one sin to make that difference. Like it or not, that’s reality according to God.

To make it harder—sin puts a barrier between us and God:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1)

It’s hard to realize how very damaging sin is to us, and how offensive self-centeredness is to God. It not only blinds us spiritually, but it squelches our interest in things that will make us truly happy like getting to know God and helping others.

God hates sin because it hurts people. If we hold onto it, it’s like a wall around us, shutting out the God of love whose great joy is giving of Himself. Unfortunately, we just don’t recognize how self-centered we are most of the time. We often think we are pretty good people. But God sees differently, and because He loves us, it hurts Him too.

So now, perhaps, God’s problem is clearer: He loves us and wants us to live forever and be completely happy. Yet without some kind of enormous intervention, no one is going to. It’s a pretty big problem.

All this raises a question: If breaking God’s law of unselfish love leads to separation from God and death, why are we all still alive? The reason is that God has put an amazing rescue plan into operation, and the story isn’t over yet!

God is love (1 John 4:6 emphasis supplied.)

Because of this, God’s solution involves pouring out a breathtaking amount of His selfless love to us. Let’s look at the plan.