Speaking for my own gender, boys are taught from an early age not to just do their best but to annihilate the competition. This often emerges in athletics at the younger ages but then can burst forth also in academic pursuits and, certainly, later in the business world as well. Those of us who do not come out in what is thought of as being “on top” in our various life and recreational activities end up taking solace in having been better than someone else. This is stuff that we may not like to admit but it’s there. Our world does not encourage us to just do our best but instead to win out over others. And, again, when we don’t, our minds switch to an attitude of “Well, I may not have “won” but at least I did better than “so and so”.” It’s all about this desire to come out “on top” in the view of the world. I find it incompatible to possess these attitudes that culture builds in us and to still truly live out an unconditional love for others. How can I love someone while at the same time wanting to see them lose? The two are not compatible.
Lisa was telling me recently of a program she saw on television, part of which focused on the behavior of teenage girls. They were involved in all sorts of things to put down or “defeat” others. Teenage boys who saw video of these girls’ behavior were shocked by it. I am not saying this for the purpose of picking on teenage girls but rather to point out that the cultural factors which drive us away from loving one another are by no means a “guy” thing. They are cross-gender and cross-cultural.
In the mainstream world in which we live, for a variety of reasons, there seems to be very little concept of “philos” love and virtually no concept of overriding “agape” love. “Philos,” in loose terms, refers to a love for friends. It is sort of a “give and take” love that is reciprocated between those involved. It is a hard love for people to “admit” to … due to fears that others will look at it in a sexual context. But, most of the people I know are in at least a few close friendships where “philos” exists and is being lived out.
What we really do not see much of though is “agape” love – this overarching complete and unconditional love for others – all others – even our enemies (who, in Luke 6, are described as those who hate us). The entire world can respond in moments of tragedy and reflect this sort of love through compassionate gifts. But that is done when a stressful situation exists as the catalyst. Whether it is really reflected in our everyday living is the bigger question.
My question is, can we love the person who cuts us off on the freeway? Can we love the person who treats our children poorly? How about the guy who slows down the checkout line at WalMart? And the one who puts a bad ding in our car door in the parking lot at WalMart? How about our competitor in business? Can we love those people? Can we live out actions that reflect that love? Can we live the supernatural life where our “immediate” (and only) reaction to these folks is one of love?
These things are a struggle in my life. Eliminating the negative human reaction but instead realizing how important Jesus told us it was to have “agape” for all others, and making that be my focus. It’s not easy. It requires constant reminders. But, I am finding that when I allow Him to, God fills me in a way which makes it easier. And, in the end, I realize that loving others – all others -- is not a chore but a blessing. It is not something to be avoided. Instead, it fills our lives with a peace and grace that takes the value of life to a whole new level … in God. I hope that possessing this is what I can view as coming out “on top”.