7For no one lives for himself alone, and no one dies for himself alone. 8For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this reason Christ died and came to life again, so that he might be Lord both over the dead and the living. 10Now you, who are you to judge your brother or sister? Or who are you to despise your brother or sister? For everyone must stand before God’s judgment seat. — Romans 14:7-10
Have you ever found yourself in difficult circumstances, and suddenly realized you were only thinking about yourself and the impact things had on you? I suspect most of us have at one time or another. I know I have. Perhaps a loved one is very ill, in pain, and about to die, and you cried out to God, â€œWhy are you doing this to me?â€ Yet the person who is being hurt the most in such a situation is generally the one who is sick, not those who are well.
Certainly, those who love a person who is hurting are also being hurt by what happens to them, but I think it is important to stop and ask ourselves just who is the focus. That’s often hard to do. When you are losing a loved one or watching one suffer, you do feel that very much in terms of how that person impacted you. Please don’t feel guilty for that. That isn’t my point at all.
In our passage Paul is pointing out something very important. There are two extremes here. On the one hand there are people who believe that their life is their own and nobody else truly matters. They live as though they are the only significant personâ€”for themselves aloneâ€”but they generally leave a trail of victims along the way.
At the other extreme is the one person, Jesus, who lived completely for others. He came here and lived as we must live. He died as we must die. He did so not to make himself importantâ€”he already wasâ€”but rather to empty himself and lift us up. He not only didn’t live for himself alone; he didn’t live for himself at all. He lived for us. There was nothing to be gainedâ€”other than us humansâ€”by coming here and going through the agony of the cross.
That’s the contrast between the devil’s approach and God’s. The devil is looking out for himself. God is looking out for us. In turn, God asks us to look out for one another.
And this is something unnatural. We really would rather take care of ourselves first, but when we take care of ourselves first, we so often never get around to taking care of others. Paul illustrates this by pointing out that we’re not to be one another’s judges. Instead, we are all on an equal level, standing accused before the judge of the universe.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot live completely for yourself. You’re going to have an impact for better or for worse. If you remember to think of the pain of others, and to truly care about them, bit by bit you’ll be transformed into God’s extremeâ€”the extreme of living for others.