“You’re not the boss of me!” Ever heard those words tumble out of a child’s mouth? Usually they spill out after a verbal wrestling match of some kind- somebody is trying to impose their plans or their will on another. But then a limit is reached and a stand must be made. If kids could express their thoughts with greater eloquence, perhaps they would quote Invictus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” But “you’re not the boss of me” says it pretty well, too.
And isn’t that the battleground for us all- from toddlers to teenagers, from babies to baby boomers to the beautifully mature (like that?) folks? We all want to be our own boss. We may be perfectly comfortable working for another person or taking orders from someone in authority. We may even prefer to have someone give us direction now and then. But the real issue lies deeper- somewhere beneath the superficial compliance or even the rebellious streaks of “Don’t tell me what to do!” Peel it back and what we find in every human heart is a flag planted deep and painted in vivid colors with a single word on it. The word: SELF. Our allegiance, in our natural state, is fundamentally to our own good, our own well-being, and our own attempt to determine our destiny.
Don’t believe me? Just watch what happens when someone’s rights- even our “right” to a good cup of coffee or to merge onto the freeway- get infringed upon. Try to pry loose from us that which is labeled “mine”. Draw a line and tell someone not to cross it. That flag of SELF will wave like a beauty queen on a parade float, just without the nice smile. Here it is. This is the battle that Jesus engages. It’s a turf war, and the piece of real estate in question is our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. SELF will not go quietly or without a fight.
But make no mistake, Jesus is not looking to negotiate a truce. He will settle for nothing less than a complete and unconditional surrender. Not because He’s a divine tyrant or ruthless aggressor, but because the rebel in us betrays our own best interests. In the pursuit of freedom from restraint, we make ourselves slaves to our appetites and pleasures. Take, for instance, our sexuality. Casting off God’s designs for us, we have re-written the manual to read, “Do that which seems best to you in the moment and, when possible, try not to hurt other people.” This creed has led to… freedom? How about millions of men and women enslaved by addiction to pornography and increasing de-humanizing debasement? How about layer after layer of scars on the souls of men and women who gave themselves away physically but can’t ignore the emotional emptiness? Or even the profound and devastating physical consequences of “casual sex”? Is this freedom?
No, God does not wage war against our rebelliousness to harm us, but rather to free us. Since He created and designed us, including our sexuality, He knows what will most protect us and honor Him. And that is why He gives us instruction and boundaries for our bodies- to keep us from harm. But He knows as well that we have this problem- we want it our way. We’re told to trust ourselves, to obey our own instincts, our appetites- we’re only human, after all.
Please, please, don’t believe that horrible lie. We are more than mindless animals or soul-less appetites. In fact, our greatest moment as humans is when we do the most sane thing imaginable- we give up. We surrender our lives and our will to the One who can be trusted with them and who loves us beyond our wildest dreams. The greatest victory in the human heart is when God plants His flag there and we find out that dying to our self is really living after all. It’s in surrender we gain the life that we always wanted.