What is the one central question that everyone asks at the beginning of any and all relationships? It doesn’t matter if the relationship is romantic, business, political, communal or even religious. We all start off every relationship asking one central question: “What’s in it for me?” No shame, no embarrassment, no judgment, because we all ask this one central question at the beginning of every relationship.
This self-absorbed, self-focused perspective is the first step in every relationship in your life. It doesn’t matter if the relationship is about buying a car or being attracted to someone. It doesn’t matter if it is about networking for business, moving into a new neighborhood or even worshiping in church. You begin every relationship in your life by seeking to answer this one central question.
Understanding that seeking to find personal benefit at the beginning of every relationship is normal, there is still a danger that can arise. The danger arises when, after being in said relationship for a long period of time, you continue to ask this exact same question. The foundation of many marital problems, family issues, business struggles, religious doubts and friendship woes is the fact that you never move past “What is in it for me?” A relationship cannot deepen, mature and be fulfilling if you are only focused on yourself in the relationship. Depth, maturity and fulfilment will be attained in any relationship when your goal is simply to be in the relationship, for the sake of the relationship. You are in the relationship for what it is, as opposed to being in the relationship for what you can get.
Let’s look at two examples. First there is a marriage relationship. There is not one married couple out there that didn’t start their relationship, way back when, because they liked how they felt when they were with the other person. The beginning of the relationship was totally about what they could get out of the relationship. It was all about how they felt around the other person. It was all about their attraction to the other person. It was all about how many of their personal life boxes a relationship with this person could check off – Do I like the way they look? Do I like their personality? Do I think they fit with my life goals? Do I…
Fast forward several years into the marriage. If one or both spouses are still thinking this way – “Do I…” – the marriage is doomed. For any successful marriage moves past “What’s in it for me?” to “I’m in it no matter what.” Having a successful marriage isn’t something that you do. Being in a successful marriage is who you are. The relationship matures to the point that it becomes your identity, not simply a means to some self-absorbed, self-focused end.
Next, there is your relationship with Jesus. There is not one follower of Jesus out there who didn’t first come to faith because of what was in it for them. All of us wanted forgiveness, grace, salvation and eternity in heaven. This self-absorbed, self-focused perspective, like with the marriage example, is a very natural place to start. But, just like in a marriage, if after several years of being a follower of Jesus, you are still in it for what you can get, you are in trouble. For sooner or later you are going to let go, walk away, back-slide or whatever other term you want to use to describe loosing interest in following Jesus.
In order to be successful as a follower of Jesus you must, like in a successful marriage, move from it being something that you do, to someone you are. You don’t do Christianity. You are a Christian. You don’t do marriage. You are married. Your relationship with Jesus and your relationship with your spouse must mature to the point that it becomes your identity, not simply a means to some self-absorbed, self-focused end. Your relationship with your spouse must mature to the point that it is who you are, not simply something that you do. Likewise, your relationship with Jesus must mature to the point that it is who you are, not simply something that you do.