January 12, 2024

A Call to Love: Why Pastors Should Teach On Putting Others Before Ourselves

In a world where it can be easier to value self-interest, pastors have the opportunity of teaching the congregation how we can learn from the character of Jesus, and what Jesus teaches us about loving others. Today’s blog will be showing why it’s important for pastors to do this.

Noah Cecil

As Christians, we’re taught the love of Christ and that we are “the light of the world.” Although our lives may not always reflect this.

In reality, some days feel like our free time dissolves perpetually, we’re faced with trials in every which way, or we’re simply burned out –– finding ourselves not being the most loving people. It can be hard caring for others when we’re caught up worrying about our own lives.

In a world where it can be easier to value self-interest, pastors have the opportunity of teaching the congregation how we can learn from the character of Jesus, and what Jesus teaches us about loving others. Today’s blog will be showing why it’s important for pastors to do this. 

The Challenge of Loving Others in Today’s World 

When it comes to a message of love, being loved, and loving others, I believe many people would agree on its importance in society. Although in today’s world, there (at times) seems to be a greater value placed on hedonism. This can cause us to place emphasis on only caring for ourselves, rather than others. 

What Exactly Is “Hedonism”?

Hedonism is a philosophy that originates from ancient Greece –– the word coming from the ancient Greek word for “pleasure.” To define hedonism, Andrew Moore of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains hedonism in two categories:

  1.  “Psychological or motivational hedonism claims that only pleasure or pain motivates us.” 
  2.  “Ethical or evaluative hedonism claims that only pleasure has worth or value and only pain or displeasure has disvalue or the opposite of worth.”

In a Medium article titled Cultural Hedonism and the Tyranny of Happiness in America, author Ash King further explains, “From a philosophical point of view, one could define Hedonism as the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.” 

So, How Does Hedonism Affect Us?

Well, according to another Medium article titled Hedonism in Today’s Society: Exploring the Pursuit of Pleasure and its Implications, the author Albert Brotherhood argues that:

“In today’s consumer-driven culture, hedonistic tendencies are often evident. The pursuit of pleasure is promoted and commercialized through various means, including advertising, entertainment, and the abundance of luxury goods.”

 Brotherhood further explains:

 “Critics argue that this emphasis on immediate gratification can lead to a shallow and short-lived sense of happiness. They argue that the relentless pursuit of pleasure can hinder personal growth, overlook the importance of long-term goals, and neglect other aspects of a fulfilling life, such as meaningful relationships, personal values, and self-actualization.”

While pleasure isn’t inherently wrong, the seeking of pleasure (and avoiding displeasure) as one’s primary motivator can begin to lead toward selfish behavior. As we grow selfish, putting our needs over everyone else’s, we push others away. Not only do we push others away, but our need for comfort can become isolating.

How The Pursuit of Comfort Isolates Us

When we find ourselves placing the highest value on pleasure and avoiding displeasure, we not only start to miss out on worthwhile opportunities in life, but loving others also starts to feel like a chore.

As our lives become busier with work, school, errands, chores, and the unexpected adversities that we face, it can be hard to make time for each other. Committing to one another not only takes time, but it also takes the energy to be present –– listening, empathizing, and engaging with what’s going on in someone else’s life. Because of this, we can fall into the trap of: (a) canceling plans at the last minute, (b) not showing up to a social event we made commitments to, or (c) only wanting to talk about ourselves and our own problems –– without listening to the other.

Putting our own pleasures of comfort over our relationships with others can begin to replace our compassion with indifference. Not only do we devalue our compassion toward others, but we begin to isolate ourselves and miss out on the richness of genuine connection with others. 

When it comes to connecting with others, Berkeley Executive Education actually claims that:

“Making healthy connections goes beyond simply avoiding feelings of loneliness and isolation. Our relationships impact all dimensions of our well-being, including physical and mental health and our ability to flourish at work and in every other facet of life.

Having a healthy support system through community can actually allow us to overcome the stress and adversity in life, rather than simply adding to it.

How Can Pastors Help Combat the Negative Effects of Hedonism and Isolation?

The answer may seem simplistic, but many Christians may find that it can be easier said than done. 

The answer is teaching on the character of Jesus, and modeling our lives after Him –– especially in times of hardship.

What Can We Learn From Jesus’s Character On Selfless Love

When it comes to the life and teachings of Jesus, we’re given a great variety of verses and stories on the importance of loving one another.

As the Messiah, Jesus makes known that He didn’t come to rule for His own gain –– but to serve others. This is made clear with the same message being reiterated within the books of Matthew, Mark, and John: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We see that in the life of Jesus, He not only served others during His time on earth –– but He selflessly endured torture, taking up the cross for our sins. 

Even on the night before His sacrifice, Jesus issued a new commandment to the disciples: 

“(...) Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus’s final commandment to the disciples, before his sacrifice, is as important now as it was then. It’s not only easy for us to value personal comfort over caring for others, but with the cynicism, and anxieties of today’s world, we tend to fall into speaking poorly of people and our circumstances. By loving one another selflessly, committing to one another, and helping each other through adversity –– we not only shine as a light in the dark parts of the world, but also represent the character of Jesus. 

Jesus doesn’t simply ask us to love one another, but states in Matthew 22:37-40:

“(...) ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

With Jesus placing such an importance on loving one another, we might ask: how are we as Christians called to love?

While this concept can be learned through deeper studies on the character and actions of Jesus and God the Father, a simple place to start is with the words of Paul the Apostle:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

A Helpful Tool for Pastors 

With there being so many stories, verses, and examples of how Jesus exemplifies His love for us, and how we can love others – it can be difficult finding a place to start their sermon writing. Thankfully, pastors now have access to online sermon writing tools. These tools not only assist in the research process, but also in easing the sermon preparation process through generating sermon outlines, character studies and modern day examples of biblical topics. 

Truly Being the Light of the World

While it may not always be easy exemplifying Jesus’s love, it’s important for pastors to remind the congregation of why it’s important. As we go about our daily lives, the stressors we face, and the temptation for chasing our own personal pleasures –– it’s imperative to be reminded of loving others as we love ourselves. 

As Paul’s letters to the church in Philippi remind us:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). 

Share this Article: