Yesterday our son Matthew became married to a wonderful young woman named Sarah. They gave me the privilege of officiating at their ceremony. The following is a short excerpt from the wedding message.
…I called this ceremony important, because it is. It is here today, that you are soon to make a commitment that will change your lives in many significant ways. Many people in our society are afraid of commitment. I am not only talking about commitment in marriage, but commitment of any kind. They are afraid that if they should make a commitment, they will limit their freedom.
This attitude is ultimately a very selfish one, of course, because in it, the individual is focusing only upon himself or herself, wanting to bring fulfillment only to themselves. But not only is this selfish; it is also very short-sighted and stems from an uninformed perspective on what truly brings fulfillment.
Contrary to what one might at first think, to find fulfillment in living, a person will never find it by focusing on himself or herself. Even when one thinks he is avoiding commitment and maintaining his “freedom” (as he defines it), he really still is committed. However, the focus of this commitment is only upon himself. He is thinking about what can make him happy, and no one else. This also is commitment, but it is a kind of selfish commitment and one that can never bring fulfillment. This is the kind of self-centered commitment that inhabits so many people of the world.
But the culture of Jesus is not the culture of the world. Jesus taught us that true fulfillment, true happiness, comes not from focusing on one’s own needs, but on the needs of others. He illustrated this principle by giving us an impactful example. At the time of the last meal that He was to share with His disciples, Jesus bent down and washed each of the disciple’s feet – a custom and a necessity that was common in that area of dusty roads and sandaled feet.
Then He told them this: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-15, 17 NAS).
Jesus told His disciples that they would be blessed if they would serve one another. The application is much wider than only footwashing. Jesus was teaching us the principle of focusing not on one’s own needs, but on the needs of others. He told us that we would be blessed if we did this.
That word blessed is one of those words that, if asked, many people would have a difficult time to define or even describe. We sometimes get the picture of a holy man of some kind placing his hand on our heads and telling us that we are “blessed.” But really, the root meaning of this word is simply, to be happy. Jesus tells us that we will be happy if we focus on the needs of others instead of our own needs and our own sense of importance. Happiness can never come from selfishness.