What Manner of Man
(A weekly program for knowing and following Jesus Christ)
By Richard M. Eyre
WEEK 14: “EXTRA-CENTEREDNESS”
To most of us, life is a series of mirrors wherein every situation, every person, is perceived in terms of self-interest: “How will that affect me?” “What can he do for me?”
The Master’s life was a series of windows. He was totally “extra-centered” or “other-centered” instead of being self-centered. He came to teach us, to help us, to cure us, to love us, to save us. And he lost himself in those tasks. It was Emerson who said, “See how the masses of men worry themselves into nameless grave, while here and there a great, unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality.” Certainly the Savior is the ultimate, literal example.
Jesus Christ not only died for us, he lived for us. Wanting only to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, he had not the slightest personal ambition. He was uninterested in praise or publicity; except for the reward of our eternal happiness, he didn’t care about reward. Because of this, and because of who he was, the Savior saw into people—into their fears, their sins, their feelings, their potentials. He saw behind the impetuousness into the strength of a Peter. He saw [past the hated occupation into the loyalty of Matthew. He saw through the sins and weaknesses of all mankind into their eternal potential and into their sonship with God and their brotherhood with himself.
Knowing that Christ was perfect implies knowing that he was totally free from the sin of selfishness, a sin that holds or has held (at least partially) every other resident this earth has ever had. Selfishness is the dimming, darkening blanket flung softly and silently across our minds by Satan. Its forces of dark win many battles against the light brigades of charity and love. But though those forces win many battles they will lose the ultimate war because (in eternal time) “charity never faileth;” the extra-centeredness,” the love, the windows shown us by Christ, will someday (a thousand-year day) transform this earth to a paradise, cresting on Christ’s charity and submerging Satan’s selfishness.
Not only did our Lord love all mankind, he loved each of mankind. He spoke in different ways and with different analogies, depending on the nature and understanding of his listeners. He viewed and judged and taught each man according to that person’s unique situation. He praised the man who doubled two talents to four, and held him equal with the man who turned five into ten. He was as aware of the momentary opportunities to teach individuals as he was of his chances to speak to masses.
Men walk about in the world, their minds filled with “island thoughts” of themselves, of their territory. By comparison, Christ’s thoughts were more like the sea—they surrounded and included the needs of all men, touching each, caring for each.
Never were the Savior’s “windows” so powerfully obvious as when, in the very midst of Gethsemane’s agony, he recognized a teaching moment with a disciple and gave what was needed—a lesson about willing spirit and weak flesh (see Mark 14:37-38). How could a man, bent under the assumption of mankind’s sins, still think at that moment of an individual’s needs? How, indeed! How could any man?
The final-line message of the Master’s extra-centeredness is the sure feeling that if there had been only one person to save on the earth, only me or only you, Jesus Christ would still have made this great sacrifice for me or for you.