Choosing Love in a Selfish World
Rev. Michael Curry serves as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and recently published a timely book called “Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times.” We are certainly living in troubled times.
Curry rose to fame in 2018 when he was asked to preside over the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in London at Westminster Abbey. Billions watched from around the world. On that day, Curry discovered that his core message resonated across the globe, in every nation, with all people.
Curry says, “Beyond our national identities and loyalties, beyond our political sympathies and ideologies, beyond our religious and spiritual convictions and commitments, there is a universal hunger at the heart of every human being: to love and to be loved.”
It is upon this universal desire that Christianity is based. When asked by a lawyer which teaching in the law is the greatest, Jesus responded this way: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, hang all the law and prophets” (Matthew 22:38-40)
In essence, Jesus is saying nothing is more important than these two commands. Curry points out that in Greek, the original language of the New Testament, we find three different words for love. First, we have Eros or romantic love. This is the love that is celebrated on Valentine’s Day, romance, passion, attraction, sex.
Second is Philia or fraternal and brotherly love. This is the love of friendship and community that makes us fond of each other.
But Jesus came to teach agape love, a sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, of society, and the world. It has been described before as “Unconquerable goodwill towards other people.” Agape love is what often seems to be missing in our broken world.
We look around and see a pandemic, a second impeachment trial, raging polarization, economic strife, hostility, resentment, and what often feels like chaos. We see anger, fear, and many who live depressed and hopeless, unsure about the future or if anybody cares about them. Many who do not love were never loved themselves so the vicious cycle gets perpetuated.
The opposite of love has never been hate. The opposite of love is selfishness often grounded in fear. If love focuses outward on others, selfishness focuses inward. According to Bishop Curry, “Selfishness is the most destructive force in all the cosmos, and hate is only its symptom. Selfishness destroys families. Selfishness destroys communities. Selfishness has destroyed societies, nations, and global communities, and it will destroy the human race by laying waste to our planet. If we let it.”
The good news is that we don’t have to let this be the case. We can choose love. We can choose compassion. We can choose sympathy and benevolence. Romantic love is great, but romantic love often fades and must give way to a deeper partnership. Couples who have been married for decades have learned to honor the friendship and avoid contempt. What our world and country need now is more agape love, where we begin to look beyond self to the needs and hurts of others.
Curry says, “Where selfishness excludes, love makes room and includes. Where selfishness puts down, love lifts up. Where selfishness hurts and harms, love helps and heals. Where selfishness enslaves, love sets free and liberates.”
Every day, we have a choice to make. Will we live to love others, or will we live only for self? When we are stressed, tired, lonely, and in the wilderness of life, it may seem difficult. But choosing to love is always the right choice.
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