Lent Series: Sin as Self-absorption

Following is the seventh of weekly devotionals that will be posted throughout the Lenten season. May these reflections encourage and help you as you repent, reflect, and prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Thank you to Sarah Bartley for today’s post.


I spent some time recently with a colleague who works in public service.  This particular individual has daily opportunities to communicate with residents and spoke about the kinds of questions and concerns people share. As we spoke, I was amazed by this colleague’s perspective:

I get transactional questions like “How do I find this?” or “Who will fix that?” But besides those, I respond to a lot of questions like, “How will I afford to live here anymore?” That, of course, is hard, but more disturbing is, “Why should I care?” As in, “Why should I care if people can’t afford to live here? Let them go somewhere else.” Or, “Why do we need to do such-and-such if it doesn’t benefit me?” We need to find a way to re-claim empathy.

Self-absorption is – in some sense – a sin for our time. Some would say it is just common sense. Others might ignore it as a victim-less crime. But in reality, self-absorption has many victims. It slowly sucks life from the ones who suffer it. It sucks life from neighbors, friends, and communities. Do you recognize it in yourself? In others? What is the answer? Of course there are secular answers; political answers; theological answers. What answer does Lent give?

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. —2 Cor 5:21

Though he was in the form of God,
    he did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
  taking the form of a slave,
  being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
  he humbled himself
  and became obedient to the point of death—
  even death on a cross.
—Phil 2:6-8

Take time to reflect on these verses.

I am struck by the suggestion that God could have chosen to be ambivalent to suffering. He could have turned away, but chose instead to take up the mantle of suffering as he carried the cross.

Rather than self-absorption, God chose to be absorbed by love for the world He had created. If self-absorption slowly kills, self-sacrifice is life-giving. It looks beyond one’s own interests and takes up instead the mantle of suffering that another carries.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! —2 Cor 5:17

“Look, I am making everything new!” —Rev 21:5

What does this mean for those who call themselves followers of Christ? How then are we to live in community? If self-absorption is a sin for our time, what answer does Lent give?