Friday, May 25, 2012

The Suicide and the Martyr

G.K. Chesterton has long been one of my favorite authors. He was a British writer during the early 1900s and his writing had a huge influence on C.S. Lewis. Recently I have been rereading Chesterton's book Orthodoxy. If you haven't read it, it is well-worth your time.
As I read last night, this section stood out to me:
Obviously a suicide is the opposite of a martyr. A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end. In other words, the martyr is noble, exactly because (however he renounces the world or execrates all humanity) he confesses this ultimate link with life; he sets his heart outside himself: he dies that something may live. The suicide is ignoble because he has not this link with being: he is a mere destroyer; spiritually, he destroys the universe. 
This section did not hit me because I had been contemplating suicide (I hope you haven't either), but it did hit me because it brought up a significance question: Where have I set my heart? The suicide sets his heart completely on himself. The martyr sets his heart outside of himself. Which one do I most resemble?
Self-love is right at the center of sin. We replace God and put ourselves on the throne. We live completely for our own interests, our own advancement, and our own satisfaction.
This certainly sounds arrogant and selfish to us, but, in a way, it also sounds reasonable. After all, if I don't care about me, who will? I am me, and therefore I should be most concerned with my money, my family, my retirement fund, my education, my reputation, and my relaxation.
But God calls us away from self-love not simply because it robs him of his rightful place on the throne (although it certainly does). He calls us away from self-love because it is slavery. We think we will find freedom and life through being consumed with ourselves. We will not. We will experience such isolation and despair that we will be miserable.
And it is all a lie anyway, because we can never be our own god. We think we are coming up with our own ideas when we are self-consumed. They are not our ideas. The enemy came up with those ideas long ago. Just read Romans 6:1-14. When we sin through self-love, we are never the ones in charge. We are slaves, and God calls us to the freedom of losing ourselves in Christ.
I hope you're not contemplating suicide. But I hope we will all contemplate martyrdom. Not in the sense that we seek our persecution and alienation from the world. But in the sense that we are so consumed with Christ and the freedom that he gives, that we joyfully lose track of the self-love that would bring us into miserable slavery.
Luke 9:24: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

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