Earlier today Derren Brown retweeted this photo with the comment "Oh Lord." It's had 85 retweets and counting. Here are some of the comments in replies:
The list is backwards
'You last'. What a heart-breaker
So sad, make them feel guilty, bad and no self worth...sorry no religious belief from me!
On the original Classic Pic tweet were the following comments (swearing coming...)
disgusting crap message on the wall. abandoned child must focus on invisible Jesus rather than own needs
that is the saddest thing I have seen in days. *sob*
fuck that, fuck the message on the wall
This is a desperately sad photo. Not just the message, but the stark walls and the bleak, loveless room.
Interesting photo. Revolting story told in the photo.
Everything that's wrong with religion
"Dear Lord. i thanks you for giving me no parents and a shitty start in life."
Torn between sorrow and rage.
This is all sorts of horrible. Poor kid.
Horrible, horrible child abuse. Disgusting.
I grew up with "Jesus, Others, Yourself" - JOY comes by putting yourself last, right? If you grew up in a Christian home I'd be surprised if you've never come across the acronym. I mention this so that no-one thinks this is the orphanage's way of putting the children in their place. This is not a power-play, it's the opposite. This is the essence of the way of Jesus: self-giving sacrifice as the way to fullness of life.
But what's fascinating to me is that in 1947 'Self Last' would have been roundly endorsed as the moral position. Today 'Self Last' is not just strange or inadvisable, it's immoral. It's disgusting crap. It's everything that's wrong with religion, etc, etc.
But what do we have in this photo? We see a little girl in need. She's an orphan and our hearts go out to her. But who is actually caring for her? Answer: the people who believe in "Self Last", that's who. And which body of people have had the longest and most impressive history of caring for orphans? Christians - i.e. those who believe in 'Self Last'.
What's the alternative? Shall we declare 'Self Last' as an abusive sentiment? Shall we endorse 'Me First' instead? How many orphanages could be built on that foundation?
But, some will say, this girl is at the bottom of the heap already. How crushing for her to be told to pray this hierarchy into her heart every day! Isn't that abusive?
Ah but, here's the thing. All Christians pray 'Self Last.' I'll bet the Queen herself was taught this acronym. Everyone is called to the selfless life of Jesus. Christ's kingdom inverts all our 'Me First' values. As Mary's Christmas song (the Magnificat) reminds us:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)
'Self Last' is a philosophy that humbles the highest and lifts up the poorest. In the kingdom of 'Self Last' it's the lowliest who are greatest. As this little girl prays, she is in touch with the Lord of the universe - the Lord who stoops, serves, suffers and dies.
Just practically speaking, her greatest hope is the 'Self Last' people. They are the ones who care for orphans. And spiritually and existentially speaking, her greatest hope is the Lord who put Himself last. In His kingdom she is the greatest:
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and made him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.’ (Luke 9:46-48)