Self Denial

And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

— St. Luke 9:23-24

Every reward held out by Christ is a pure thing; nor can it enter the soul save as a death to selfishness. It is not selfish to be joyful. What power could prevent him who sees the face of God from being joyful? The one bliss of the universe is the presence of God, which is simply God being to the man the indwelling power of his life. Where can be the selfishness in being so made happy? It may be deep selfishness to refuse to be happy. Selfishness consists in taking the bliss from another; to find one’s bliss in the bliss of another is not selfishness. The one bliss, next to the love of God, is the love of our neighbor. If any say, “You love because it makes you blessed,” I deny it: We are blessed because we love. Love is unselfishness. In the main we love because we cannot help it. There is no merit in it-- how should there be in any love?—but neither is it selfish. There are many who confound righteousness with merit. “If it makes you happy to love,” they say, “where is your merit? It is only selfishness!” There is no merit, I reply, yet the love that is born in us is our salvation from selfishness. It is of the very essence of righteousness. Because a thing is joyful, it does not follow that I do it for the joy of it; yet when the joy is in others, the joy is pure. That certain joys should be joys is the very denial of selfishness. A man would be demonically selfish, whom love itself did not make joyful.