By: Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard

487405433_640It has been said that the greatest needs of mankind are money, sex, and power. People will lie, cheat, and steal to acquire money. Marriages are destroyed, families are ruined, and jobs are lost as a result of sexual affairs or pornography consumption. Physical fights, threatening letters, and intimidation tactics are engaged to keep another person underneath a thumb.But believe it or not, none of these things are considered the greatest need of mankind.What then ‘is’ mankind’s greatest need? The greatest need is to be justified, to be considered right and good and whole.

This need to be justified is so great that we take it upon ourselves to justify ourselves. We do this by attempting to craft stories of our lives in ways that portray ‘ourselves’ as good, right, and salutary. Like a strainer, we strip away the bad moments of our past and elevate that which is good, so that we can apply only the positive aspects of our stories to our identity. In the court of popular opinion, we gather friends that believe and uphold the version of our story and we distance those who threaten to topple our grand self-narrative.

226376318739023383_XMthS7eU_f-300x225Things become a bit difficult though when we can’t escape the assessments of others. That is to say, it is difficult to preserve a polished story about ourselves when we have to interact with people who won’t always acknowledge and uphold our self-aggrandized stories. One way to counterbalance this is to play the ‘you can’t judge me’ card. Yes, if we are able to aggressively assert that other people aren’t allowed to judge us, our polished stories can remain protected, therefore allowing us to maintain our polished image. However, if the ‘you can’t judge me’ tactic is unsuccessful and we find the stories of our lives being judged, questioned, or criticized, we will write the people off as ‘jerks’ and then attempt to find ways to build up the stories of our lives again. Otherwise stated, these outside judgmental criticisms essentially attack our ingrained self-justification. As a result, our self-narrative begins to dim; we find that the self-validating story about ourselves is lacking, which means that we will try and regain—with possible coercion—that which is lacking.

This is where money, sex, and power come back into the picture. These three areas become the means by which we attempt to regain or coerce our justification, in order to fulfill ourselves. While money, sex, and power are good gifts when used in their proper context, a self-validating story in need of justification will typically ignore these proper contexts and forcefully seize money, sex, and power at all costs. The catch-22 to this is that the person who is attempting to acquire justification and recognition actually damns himself and his story even more when he flippantly rips these gifts out of their proper context. We want to create something or acquire something that we believe—and others will say—gives pleasure and ought to be acknowledged, so that it is rewarded by a look or a comment.[1] However, the more that we forcefully try to produce and acquire that which we believe will justify ourselves, the more we typically hurt others in the process, thus further damaging the story we find ourselves in.

Tragically, “Those who justify themselves are under compulsion to do so. There is no escape. . . . With our need for justification we entangle ourselves in the web of guilt”[2] with each additional self-justifying attempt.

The cycle continues.

Uncertainty impinges.

Darkness sets in.

Despair begins.

Madness.

Listen, there is alternative story. There is another way.

This other way is the way of your baptism in Christ Jesus.

5-SAM_2336

By Steven Dawson

In baptism you have been buried with Jesus into death. In baptism you have been resurrected anew in Jesus. In your baptismal death you have been untangled from your story of self-aggrandizement. Undeniably, your story does not define you or justify you. It can’t. It won’t. You and your story died with Christ; washed and drowned. Your sin-story was nailed to the cross in baptism and you were given a new story—betrothed to the Lamb, belonging forever to the risen Lord Jesus. “Thus, [you] are hidden from [yourself] and removed from the judgement of others or the judgment of [yourself] about [yourself] as a final judgement.”[3] At the baptismal font you were joined to Jesus, hidden in Him and His wounds.

Baptized: the Lord is well pleased with you.

Baptized: considered right and good and whole.

Baptized: lacking nothing.

Baptized: justified completely.

Baptized: you are!

___________

[1] Oswald Bayer, Living By Faith: Justification and Sanctification (Grand Rapids, MI: W.M. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), 2.
[2] Ibid, 2, 30.
[3] Ibid.

Your Greatest Need Isn’t Money, Sex, Or Power, But…