Find Your Center

A brief history lesson, if you will…

For many years, people held the basic idea that Earth, not the Sun, was at the center of our universe. Ptolemy, a Greek mathematician living in the 2nd century A.D., was the first person to offer a detailed explanation of this theory. His work was accepted as truth; after all, why wouldn’t Earth be the center of all things? This proposed arrangement of the universe is known as the Ptolemaic model: Earth was thought to be in the center, and every other thing (the Sun, the planets, the stars, etc.) moved in orbits around it.

Only after the passing of a millennium was this theory toppled by extensive scientific work starting with Copernicus in 1543. Now we understand that the Copernican view of the universe is correct: the Sun, not Earth, is at the center of our universe. Interestingly, a recent study shows that 1 in 5 Americans still think that Earth occupies the central position.

Long before Ptolemy wrote about the Earth-centered theory or before Copernicus proved him wrong, a man named Aristarchus, born in 310 B.C., had an idea. He said that the Sun was the center of our universe. Though he was right, his suggestion was considered ridiculous. According to history, he had only one known supporter; everyone else thought he was crazy. Later, when Copernicus made his own findings public, some religious leaders of the day, including Martin Luther, ridiculed the astronomer publicly.

Seems that suggesting our little world isn’t the center of the universe wins few popularity votes.

Today, even though the old Earth-centered model has passed from the scene, we can hold to a similar way of thinking: the “me-centered” universe. This view has plenty of followers; the old and young alike fall prey to this mindset. We live in an entitlement society: our rights must be met, preferences catered to, mindless traditions honored, passing trends exalted, freedoms to do “whatever we want to do” preserved, and atop it all, we must be entertained. In short, we feel like the entire world and even God himself owe us something. It’s the “selfie-verse,” and we believe nothing can resist the pull of our gravity. If we are not careful, our “me-centered” view will stretch out to include the way we think, vote, and even how we worship.

A while ago, someone was “church shopping” and asked me a question with a tone that sounded very much like he was haggling over the options offered on a new car, and I was the salesman with whom he was negotiating. He asked, “So if I come to your church, what is in it for me? I want to know exactly what you can offer me.” His question revealed his unspoken viewpoint: he was the consumer, the church was the product, and I was the customer service representative.

So, I was truthful.

“We offer opportunities for people to become followers of Christ, to know him more deeply while being transformed to be like him, to grow and serve with others and to sacrifice our lives as we follow God’s plan for us,” I said.

By all accounts, though it was the right answer, it wasn’t the desired or expected one.

The culture of consumerism and the do-it-yourself-for-yourself view of spirituality can be found across churches of various sizes, styles and practices. I have watched churches operate with a newly found, human-produced excitement and boldly proclaim, “We have never been more alive!“ And I have seen churches, long dead or barely breathing, clinging to thoughtless routines passed from generation to generation emphatically state, “We have been faithful and full of life for many years!”

And yet, for those with spiritual eyes, the truth is clear: many of these churches are nothing more than corpses tied to marionette strings.

Neither creativity nor consistency guarantee a vibrant life of faith. Only the Spirit can accomplish that.

The “me-centered” universe doesn’t square with the reality found in Christ. In fact, Colossians tells us that all things were created through him and for him (1:16). Jesus must be the center of my universe because he’s the only one worthy to occupy that position. We jockey for position. We self-promote to be known. We covet more views and likes. We try to get ahead of our competition. For what? To gain a feeling of worth and purpose. Here’s a biblical alternative: be faithful. In the end, that is the only thing that matters. God will never say, “Well done, popular and well-known servant.” We serve God, not our selfish motives.

Jesus doesn’t exist for us; we exist for him. As a wise pastor said long ago, “It’s not about what you’re going to get out of God, but what God’s going to get out of you.”

Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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