“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25, esv).
Has this ever been you? You’re running late to a meeting or a doctor’s appointment, when someone cuts you off in traffic or won’t pull over to let you pass. And before another thought crosses your mind, you’re yelling at this person—someone you don’t even know, but who has the audacity to be in front of you, delaying you, keeping you from getting where you want to be as fast you want to be there.
Why? Why do we do that?
Or someone says something unkind to you, or hurts your kid’s feelings, and you march over to that school, you step right up to whoever said or did this thing. No way will you just sit there and let a false accusation go undefended. You’re going to say what’s true, and they’re going to hear you out.
But why? Why do we do that?
We do that because of what’s inside of us. When we get bumped, we spill whatever we’re full of. And if we haven’t decided to lose that stuff—our sense of superiority and self-importance, our need to win and be right and to have the last word—that’s what naturally comes out.
So when Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it,” that’s what he was talking about. Not losing our life physically. But losing what Scripture calls our “old man” (Romans 6:6, kjv), our “flesh” (Romans 8:5, esv), our sinful nature, our inclination to do wrong. He was talking about refusing to keep feeding our ego and demanding that our own rights are met.
Perhaps the best word for it is the one we get from crossing off the H from FLESH, then spelling the remaining letters backwards: S-E-L-F. Because self is where all our inner misery comes from. Self is what’s caused heartache for so many of the people we care about. Self is what rises up inside us and demands things that are wrong—things that aren’t good, or aren’t best, or aren’t from God.
But when we lose this self-saturated outlook on life, with all its sensitivity to perceived injury and insistence on meeting our personal preferences—and when we fill ourselves up with Jesus instead—something much different happens the next time we’re jostled by aggressive drivers or rude sales clerks or family members with hidden agendas. Instead of ugly, messy “self” spilling out, the fragrance of Christ spills out. The sweet aroma of peace and forgiveness spills out.
“When [Jesus] was reviled, he did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23), and through His example and His Spirit we can find the awful self that fuels our ugly reactions becoming replaced with His love and strength, so we graciously answer with a smile instead of a sneer (or worse).
Lose yourself, Jesus is basically saying, and you will find everything in life that you’ve been looking and longing for.
Your self needs a mercy killing. And the beauty of this obedience is that, every day you do it, you come alive a little bit more.
Father, thank You for providing an escape from the tyranny of self. You are the only One powerful enough to conquer my flesh, and I willingly submit to Your ways today. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit instead of my selfishness. Let my life truly exude the aroma of Christ, even when pushed, pressured, and threatened with loss of autonomy or comfort. I know that Your ways are higher than mine, so I thank You that You made me and that You know and want what’s best for Your children. I yield myself to You in the mighty name of Jesus, amen.