“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” – Matthew 5:17
“Because of God you are in Christ, who has become to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” – 1 Corinthians 1:30
“He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” – Hebrews 1:3
The perfect fulfillment of God’s law (Matthew 5:17), the perfect representation of righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30), and the perfect display of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3)–all of these found their realization in a human life that was completely devoid of comfort, marriage, riches, sex, loyalty, respect, and acceptance. This shows us that the pinnacle of human flourishing and fulfillment is not found in social status, acclaim, or the attainment of pleasure. For us to say such or to live in such a way shows that we don’t truly consider the humanity of Christ as the supreme example of what we ought to be.
Strange and horrible things happen when we craft our own definition of human fulfillment. If we prop up ethnic and racial pride as man’s ultimate ideal then we wind up with a Holocaust. If we declare sexuality as mankind’s greatest means of personal fulfillment then we come up with no-fault divorce, Roe v. Wade, and Obergefell. If we relish power and authority then we find ourselves picking up our latest shipment from the transatlantic slave trade. It only makes sense that this would be the case. A society that caters only to self, will soon turn on itself. When individual desire has become the arbiter of policy and law then what settles the matter is not an objective appeal to a guiding conscience, but a subjective interpretation of a ruling ego. The loudest ego wants a beautiful society of blond-haired, blue-eyed citizens, so gas chambers are created to smoke out all the unsightly riffraff. The loudest ego wants the clean people to have clean utilities, so along comes Jim Crow to make sure the mongrels stay off of their water fountains. The loudest ego wants unhindered access to curb the appetite of their libido and so a pill is created to destroy any inconvenient child that may prevent their next orgasm. The society that focuses on self will eventually kill itself.
This is true of secular society and it’s also true of the church. When our aspirations terminate on self, then all our pursuits will have selfish motives, rendering them antithetical to the purpose God created us for: to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:6-7). If we are acting contrary to our created purpose then it is foolish to believe that anything we do will satisfy us. True satisfaction and fulfillment comes from living in accordance with our created purpose. And if maximizing the glory of God is the reason we were created, then minimizing self is going to have to be an accepted result of pursuing that purpose (John 3:30).
This is what the church is supposed to do. When we live with the singular focus of making much of Christ rather than ourselves, we are simultaneously pursuing our own satisfaction and are broadcasting a message of hope to the lost:
- When we show that human fulfillment is found in making much of Christ and not in satisfying our sexual desires, then those who experience same-sex attraction will see that they don’t have to surrender to their sin to find fulfillment.
- When we show that human fulfillment is found in making much of Christ and not in climbing the corporate ladder, then the workaholic father will see that he doesn’t have to sacrifice time with his family to find fulfillment.
- When we show that human fulfillment is found in making much of Christ and not in having a perfect marriage, then we show the couple considering divorce that separation is not the only option they have to find fulfillment.
- When we show that human fulfillment is found in making much of Christ and not in having personal freedom, then we show the young pregnant woman that a child will not rob her of joy and that abortion is not the only option she has to find fulfillment.
If only all of us were living in this way, the world would know that there is life to be found in the Gospel; they would know that we have a living hope that promises and provides an abundant life (1 Peter 1:3; John 10:10). Let us do away with the false notion that this kind of witness is not up to us, it is! When the world sees a truly Christian person, it may feel condemned. Salt stings when it is poured into the wound and light hurts the eyes that have been in darkness for so long (Matthew 5:13-16). But when the salt is consistent and the light is constant, the wound is healed and the eyes adjust, becoming enlightened. And a healthy people with a clear vision of their own hearts and motives are all the more willing to say “not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Let us set our highest aspiration to that of knowing and glorifying Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Let us align our values, motives, and joys with those of the One who has promised that our surrender to Him would result in the only kind of fulfillment that’s real (Matthew 10:39). Let us carefully study the life of the Man who claims to show us what we ought to be.