If you have any contact with cool kids these days, you’ll find out that selfies are all the rage. But is the “selfie” really anything new? It’s taking a picture of yourself. I feel like that has probably been done before.
The selfie craze perfectly epitomizes our cultural narrative. We live in an age of radical individualism. Being yourself is the gospel we are taught. The selfie is simply technology demonstrating the bottom line that has served as the foundation of the human experience since Genesis 3–the supremacy of the individual. We turned the camera onto ourselves many years ago.
It’s not uncommon to hear this cultural narrative echoed within the church. Depending on where you look and who you listen to, one may suspect that the entire purpose of Jesus dying on the cross is so that we could live our best life now. Taking up my cross and following Jesus gets a lot easier when he just leads me back to “finding myself.” After all, it’s my own “personal relationship” with God, isn’t it?
The practical outworking of the gospel in our lives doesn’t actually lead us to individualism. It leads us to imitation. Paul talked about this a lot. On many occasions he said to the churches who were seeking to follow Jesus, “Imitate me,” “Imitate our way of life,” “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Paul didn’t say these things because he was trying to form an army of clones. I think he was probably trying to clue young Christians into the reality that Jesus didn’t die to save us for ourselves, but to purchase our salvation for Himself.
You get the idea that the path we walk when we follow Jesus doesn’t actually lead us back to ourselves. It leads our selves to worship of something (Someone, really) outside of ourselves. While the first commandment of our culture’s narrative at the moment seems to be “Thou Shalt Take a Selfie,” the way of discipleship offers a better alternative. My self-esteem, self-image, and self-actualization are not the true pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. God is our goal, our purpose, and the end for which our soul pines. The way of the cross of Jesus is the only road that truly leads us home.