When I was pursuing my undergraduate psychology degree I did a little research into the phenomenon of “selfies”. What I ultimately found and what I concluded in my research paper was that most people who take an unusually high number of selfies (and even more so if they post them on social media), aren’t so much narcissistic as they are craving love. They often posted their pictures with an underlying need for acceptance and appreciation. They had these feelings validated through the likes and the comments they received.
Abraham Maslow, creator of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, said that self was not an isolated ego but a “potential, a tendency that as it develops, becomes an ever more open engagement with the world and others”. The need to connect with others is not only natural but it is necessary. Our egos help us to connect with one another and if I dare say, find love and acceptance. But our egos need to be developed in a way that encourages love and not narcissism.
How can we do this in a society that tells us that “self” is most important and that it’s ok to use other people for our own benefit? Radical love is the answer.
Chapter 20: Radical Love
I think my favorite aspect of this chapter is the teaching that love is the only way. We are going to be challenged at every turn in our lives and we have the ability to choose how to respond to those challenges. Love is the best, and really only way, to respond.
But it’s not always easy to respond in love, especially when we have been hurt by others. It would be much easier to be hateful or spiteful in response to those who hurt us. We might even find fleeting satisfaction that we “got back” at those who caused us pain. And yet, Jesus reminds us that the only way to respond, even to those who hurt us, is with love.
This type of love is called agape love. It is unconditional love that knows no bounds. It is also completely voluntary. Agape love is the foundation of the entire Bible and we find the culmination of this love as we look upon the cross. Jesus taught us how to love with every teaching He imparted, but none so much as His death upon the cross. He modeled a “selfless, sacrificial, generous, and unconditional” love. It is the love that keep us from falling into the thought that I am the most important and my needs trump everyone else’s needs.
Point to Ponder: At the end, when you face God, perhaps what he will ask is: How well did you love?
I pray that when I stand before God He will be able to see love in everything I did. I try to love others not because of what they can do for me, but because of who they are as a child of God. I pray that will be seen in the things I do for others and how I conduct my life.
At a recent funeral a friend remarked to me that it was sad that only the person’s work accomplishments were read off as how people remembered this person. While our jobs are important and worthwhile, they shouldn’t be the crux of who we are. Both my friend and I were saddened that the real importance of this person’s life was missed. When I die I hope that people remember me because of the love I made them feel and the joy that I brought to their lives. I hope at the end of my life people say, “She loved deeply and unconditionally. We felt Christ’s love and peace when she was around.”
It is difficult to always love others and there are a few in my life right now that are challenging me. But Christ calls us to love and so we must give our love to everyone… even those people who don’t want our love or who challenge us to find reasons to continue to love unconditionally.
Verse to Live: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46
When we commend our spirits to God as Christ did, loving others becomes easier. When we rest our spirits in God’s hands we open ourselves up to experiencing His love in a very intimate way. He teaches us how to love not only others but ourselves as well. This experience then allows us to share His unconditional love with others. We should trust God to lead us to love each and every person we encounter.
Question to Ponder: What are you laying down your life for?
There was a time where God asked me to literally lay my life down for my son. I made the choice for life without hesitation. But sometimes God asks us to lay down our lives in other ways. Right now I think He is asking me to lay down my need to control my life and simply trust that He has a plan and that He will make things right. Not only am I called to lay my life in His hands but to trust my entire family in His hands as well. This is difficult for me as I want and feel the need to protect them. To be honest, this decision to trust Him with all the details and to put all our lives in His hands is even harder than when I was asked if I would give my life for Leo.
Your Turn: Is it hard for you to give unconditional love? How do you wish to be remembered at the end of your life? What are you laying your life down for right now?
Prayer: Jesus, teach me to love with abandon.
Help me to be patient; teach me to be kind; guide me to not be envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Help me to not insist on my own way; to not be irritable or resentful; show me hot to not rejoice in wrongdoing but instead rejoice in the truth. Teach me Lord to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.
Lord, help me to love as you love. Amen.