For the most important person in the world: YOU

Posted on: June 9, 2020, by :

Do you remember that ad for National Mutual from 1989? The slogan ‘For the most important person in the world’ would be followed by the word ‘YOU’ alone on the screen.  It was an ad that catered for the ego-centric, materialistic western culture of the day. It seems that nothing much has changed over the 30 years since.

Certainly when the President of the USA stands in front of a church waving a Bible, you get the feeling he’s not doing it out of concern for the people who are protesting down the street, people who are victims of injustice and prejudice, but rather out of concern for his own image, as a very strategic act in his re-election campaign.

The President has received his share of criticism for his posturing, particularly since he repeated it the next day with a visit to the John Paul II Shrine. Of particular note were the responses from Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde and Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who both spoke of the stark contrast between Trump’s militaristic, conflict-centered approach and Jesus’ teaching and modelling of reconciliation and unconditional love.

The trouble is, we are far too easily seduced by the culture of ‘me-first’ (remember the great toilet-paper wars of March?), seduced by the lure of personal advancement, personal success, personal security, personal happiness, readily believing and behaving as though the most important person in the world is ME! Such a culture has to have its winners and its losers, its people of significance and insignificance, its successes and its failures, because that’s how we measure our personal worth, how we peg our place on the ladder of importance. It’s not difficult to see how such a culture breeds selfishness, competition, conflict, avarice and injustice. It breeds a narcissistic worldview which holds that the world exists to serve me, and when it doesn’t then you had better watch out!

The teaching and lifestyle of Jesus offers a very different worldview – a diametrically opposing worldview. Affirming the dignity and worth – the sanctity – of all people, Jesus taught that the most important person in the world is not me but you. Demonstrating unconditional love, compassion, self-sacrifice and servanthood, Jesus proclaimed not that the world exists to serve me, but that I exist to serve the world. The culture of Jesus’ way is other-focussed not me-focussed and breeds generosity, reconciliation, grace and justice.

‘What about the importance of self-care?’ I hear you ask. Self-care, so prominent a theme in today’s world, is important, of course, but it is a phenomenon that has become necessary precisely because of the competitive culture we have created. In a culture where people are all caring primarily and appropriately for others, self-care would not need to be a priority because we would be receiving adequate care from others!

I guess the way of self-sacrifice, compassion and servanthood is not a particularly appealing lifestyle – after all it led to the death of Jesus! Becoming President of the USA might have much more appeal on the surface. But deep down we sense, do we not, that the way of self-giving and service is the better way, at least for the sake of the world!

David Brooker.

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