An Outward-focused Life

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Romans 14:7-9, 19 ESV

Everyone is doing it. I don’t know about you, but the odds are you have done it. Some people are obsessed by it. I doubt I have done it more than ten times. Almost all of mine have been to my kids or grandsons, but I have appeared in many as a favor to more than a few college students.

Yep, it’s a selfie.

The first one I took was with Penny with the sun setting behind us at the beach. The last one I took was at the SEC championship game in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Selfies can be innocent fun, but for some they may reveal an obsessive focus on self.

It may not have been Paul’s intent, but his words apply to this and every generation. And for the believer, Paul’s words are important to remember. None of us lives to himself. It’s not about me, and it’s not about us. It’s ultimately about and for the Lord, and when we get that truth embedded in our hearts and minds, it allows us to take a huge step in our spiritual maturity and changes the way we approach everything we do.

In order to take a selfie, you have to override the camera’s natural view. Cameras are designed to look outward to the beauty of what is around the photographer. It takes an extra step to adjust the camera angle to look at the photographer. Apple and Android designers have made it easy to focus on me. Our enemy is subtle in how he tempts us to also focus on ourselves instead of others. But in the beginning, God created us for himself and for each other. Sin interrupts God’s intent and switches the focus. Jesus restores our focus and allows us to once again focus on God and, through him, have the capacity to love and to help others.

Paul reminds us that Christ did not please himself but instead took our failures and shame to the cross. And by this ultimate act of love we know can have hope and together glorify God. 

Once we have our focus properly set, we can now build others up and allow them to experience all of the life that God has planned for them.

As Paul wraps up Romans, he takes a whole chapter to thank and praise twenty-eight different people for their service to him and to others. Paul modeled a life outward focused, and the fruit of his labor was a large group of leaders who were doing the same.

Just yesterday someone asked me why I left a job that I enjoyed to be a college President. He asked because he heard me previously say that you would have to be crazy to want to be a college president. But my reason is simple: it’s multiplication. There is no other job I know where I can hopefully influence more people to discover the foundation of life in Christ and therefore graduate to serve others with their gifts and talents.

The world doesn’t need another picture of you or me. But I would love to see a picture of all the people we together can influence for good and for God!

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Romans 15:1-7, 13 ESV

Written by Dean Collins ’79, Point University President