The neighbor-god complex

There’s a quote from Luther that the collective zeitgeist has latched onto. 

“God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

This is such a good quote. I’m thankful it’s making the rounds. The Christian church can easily become an institution that enables us to curve in on ourselves (the theological meaning of sin) rather than extend out to God and neighbor.

But here’s the thing…

A certain self-glorifying part of me wants to take this quote and amplify it to the point where I am the god of my world who saves everyone through pure volition and sacrifice. Where I am the god of my neighbor or where the neighbor is my god. The best part of this is, I can lambast everyone who doesn’t do as much as I’m doing (it’s also nice that this makes me look like I’m doing way more than I actually am). 

We must beware of the pitfall of turning the neighbor (or ourselves) into a god. This might feel really empowering for a while. But it will only lead to burnout, heartbreak, and the explosion of relationships. If taken to an idolatrous level, it will lead to an insatiable bitterness towards the world and oneself.

And there you have it. Sin, working through the ego, to turn us in on ourselves through a good thing like helping the neighbor.

Christ, have mercy.
Help us do everything
that we can for our neighbor
with a softened heart
while reminding us
that we are not God
and neither are they;
but in You,
all is restored.

Grace + Godspeed,