Everyone has a basic orientation toward others. For the observant believer, this is obvious, both in themselves and those around them.

Some people are bent toward taking care of themselves first, others last. For some Christians their service to others is dutiful. They get by with what is required to be seen as a good Christian.

But there are others—many others, thankfully—who are focused almost exclusively on others. It is their first thought.

The apostle Paul was a premier example of this selfless lifestyle. He did not seek what others could do for him, or give to him; he sought THEM and their spiritual well-being alone. He was willing to “spend and be spent” on behalf of others.

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls (2 Corinthians 12:14-15 NASB).

The Opposite of Love

Love’s antithesis is not hatred. It is selfishness. When you read the list of all the things the love of God is in 1 Corinthians 13, you find at its heart a greater concern for others than for self. Read through this list with that unselfishness (the love of God) in view:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

The heart of this is right in the middle of this list: Love does not seek its own—its own rights, its own time, its own comfort, its own way. The reason is, when love is ruling in your heart, you are always more concerned about others than yourself.

This is why, for instance, the love of God does not “take into account a wrong suffered.” If His love is your orientation, you don’t hold a grudge, because you are not even thinking about what has been done to you. You are thinking about how the wrong suffered and forgiven could show love to your offender—a powerful opportunity for the gospel.

You have found, as Tim Keller says, the glorious “freedom of self-forgetfulness.” If the love of God is not ruling in your life, this is nowhere present. You live in the “bondage of self-thoughtfulness.”

A Slave to All

This love, this unselfish orientation toward all of life, is why Paul could make such an amazing statement when he speaks of his passion for getting the gospel to all kinds of men, by all kinds of means:

Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more (1 Corinthians 9:19).

Paul was willing to lay aside all his personal rights to literally become a “bond-slave” to other people. A bond-slave has no rights of his own, but is totally at the discretion of those he serves. This was Paul’s constant posture, because he wanted to win everyone to Jesus, and ultimately glorify and serve his Master.

Finding This Freedom and Effectiveness

What if we lived that way … every day? What if you got up in the morning intentional about getting the love of God and His gospel to everyone, and lived all day as a bond-slave to everyone you met—willing to “spend and be spent” on behalf of your mate, your co-workers, the person behind you in the grocery line or traffic lane, even your worst enemies? What if your entire orientation was to serve them and let them see the glorious love of God through you, no matter what the cost?

This is what Jesus did. Always. And the difference between His life and the self-centered lives around Him was so remarkable that it drew everyone to Him.

If He lives in us and we allow Him to have full control, it’s exactly what would flow from us like rivers of living water, refreshing and cleansing everyone directed across our lives by divine providence.