An “Other-Orientation”

Could it be that the Spirit breaths that one word into each of our actions? Others. It is the only way to live. by Bill Ury
Chicago: Distributing bagged lunches – drive thru

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31 ESV

Holiness is always and only self-giving. I find the language of our current response to this crisis to be a form of unwitting sanctification. I wish I had counted the times I have heard the words: “sacrifice,” “care,” and “share.” Or the phrases: “Look out for each other,” “Don’t act in self-interest,” “Always keep the weakest among us in mind.” We are told; not to hoard, not to be reckless in social contexts, not to act selfishly, to show self-control. These ideas are coming to us from every sector of our culture; political, medical, economic and social. Suddenly everyone is preaching ‘be holy,’ ‘watch all uncleanness,’ ‘be pure,’ ‘love each other.’ It is as if everyone clearly sees how life works best. In fact, they have gone so far as to say that if we don’t act this way it can mean death.

Jesus summarizes all that is true in this conversation. And it always means I must put the other before myself. But the origin of it all is God Himself. We would have never thought that up on our own. Any true love begins in the One who loved us when no one else would. The God who loves us more than He loves Himself has surrounded us with a symphony of testimony to His selfless nature. Sadly, we tend to only hear it when there is a threat to our well-being.

I think I was in elementary school when I heard the story of the one word breathed into the ears of the children of Catherine and William Booth as they tucked them in at night, “Others.” Could it be across this marvelous Salvation Army, with its various, inter-connected parts, that we must hear again the very essence of our reason for existence. We all work together to make that one key offer from the heart of God – others. He is always other-oriented. And that word, ‘others’ is more than our motto. It points to what is truly life giving. And when He comes to live in us and work through us that other-orientation is the clearest mark of His presence.

I have been thinking about what holiness means for forty years and it is remarkable that I hear my own society parroting back to me all the terms that the Bible outlines for living a holy life. It is always intriguing when a person or a culture is brought to its knees what arises in response. The only hope of any true meaning is found if we live for someone outside ourselves.  Is that what Jesus underscored time and time again.  I for one don’t want to miss what is being said.

As I work from my desk and pray for my loved ones, for my community, for my denomination, for my nation, and for the world. Could it be that the Spirit breathes that one word into each of our actions? Others. It is the only way to truly live.


God of self-giving love, form in me Your nature that all I do today reflects the outward flow of love which can only come as You pour Your love into my heart.  Turn me outside myself so that I see what You see and respond as You would. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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