A self-absorbed society thinks “life” is bounded by the skin of an individual. It pictures “life” as “self,” considering the self the essential element, the “living” thing. It pictures “life” as contained, particularly, within the physical body. If living is something the body does, then dying is the decease of this mortal flesh. Simple definitions. But deceptive. And dangerous.
This sort of life-and-death ignores relationship altogether. It absolutely rejects the intimate connection between one’s healthy living and one’s righteousness. Health is physical only; happiness is self-satisfaction; love must therefore be some gratification of this self’s desires. What does righteousness have to do with any of this? Nothing. In the world’s eyes, righteousness is a deadly binding of the self and an imprisonment, therefore, of that self’s freer, fuller life. There is no room here for obedience.
Thus, the sinful world celebrates self above all other things (since self is the final judge of goodness, the recipient of every “good” thing). Likewise, it puts the love of the self above all other loves. It reverses the necessary order of creation and holiness by saying: “First I must love my self before I can love anyone else.” It acts like God, living and loving in a solitude. Other kinds of loving become the choices of the self, only so long as the self considers itself served by them; for no other loving, no other relationship is seen as necessary for life. The only code this self obeys is that which proceeds from and preserves its self, that which fulfills and enlarges the self. A perfect independence, a complete self-sufficiency—I need no one but me--is considered the highest sort of freedom.
And there is the wretched deception: one so “free” is merely one alone. Beginning and ending with the self isn’t life at all, but isolation. Which is death.
And here is the danger: such “freedom” hurts others by sundering dear relationships, killing them little by little.
-Walter Wangerin, Mourning into Dancing