By: carole l. haines
27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30 ESV)
I work with infants and toddlers. When they enter the world, they take up all the space in the room. They cry when they are hungry, or wet, or in pain. But they also smile and laugh. They bring great joy to all who spend time with them. My husband said to me once that the purest sound in the world is a baby’s laughter. I most certainly agree.
We are all born taking up all the space in the room, or at least we think we are the center of the Universe. It’s not a conscious thought, but is inherently present within us. Let’s face it, we are born selfish, and so much of our young lives are spent learning how to share, how to be aware of other people’s feelings, needs and longings. We have to be taught how to be more “others-centered,” and less “me-centered.” Selfishness comes naturally, self-less-ness, does not.
John is addressing this issue for us as Spiritual followers of Jesus Christ. John tells us that Jesus must increase, and we must decrease. This is so incredibly counter-culture, so contrary to how we are taught in the world. In the Western World of Individualism, community has somehow been lost, traded or diminished. But deep inside we long for the days where people were neighborly, communities were tight-knit, supportive and helpful. As long as we allow ourselves to remain sitting on the throne of our own lives, even as Believers in Jesus, the less we will grow to have Jesus increase in us, while we decrease within ourselves. And the less we will have real community within the Body of Christ. We must learn to stop taking up all the space in the room, and leave room for Jesus, and others.
Jesus put it this way, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24 ESV)
Dying to self is no easy task, and we are not capable of doing it on our own. But Jesus, can teach us how to die, as He died; and rise to life as He rose. Jesus demonstrated how to do this in John 13, preparing for the Last Supper.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Notice what Jesus knew:
Jesus knew that His hour had come
Jesus knew His own who were in the world, and loved them
Jesus knew the Father had already given everything into His hands
Jesus knew He had come from God and was now going back to God
Our most powerful tool in learning to die to self is our spiritual identity. When we know whose we are, who we are, where we’ve come from, why we are here, and where we are going; we can gird ourselves with a towel and wash each other’s feet. No task is too lowly, no call is too high. And we learn to decrease as He increases in us. We learn that it is only Jesus that we truly want to have taken up all the space in the room.