The Oyemaja Group
Usually, at this time of the year, we all take time out (even in the midst of all the celebration) to reflect on everything that happened throughout the year. I have been doing a bit of reflection lately inspired by a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago while we were sitting under the clouds watching as darkness gave way to light signifying the break of a new day; a time which is usually referred to as the "crack of dawn".
This friend of mine set in motion what would eventually become a very convicting, yet refreshing experience for me when he made a recommendation out of the blues that I considered really strange at that time. I had only just told him about a problem I was having in my relationship with people generally and his response was "Dami", I really think you should study 1 Corinthians 13.
"Okay, so first, I had no idea that what I just shared with him was a relationship problem which if traced to its roots was premised on a very wrong philosophy that I had held on to. Actually, no, it was more like a paradigm that desperately needed to be shifted. To me, I was only just "a victim" of my friends' selfish actions.”
Secondly, I only ever thought of 1 Corinthians 13 as the classical "hymn of love" for weddings. Again, that was a very wrong notion that I had held on to that needed to be corrected .
In spite of my hesitancy, I took up his recommendation. My first glance at the scripture was mostly mechanical as I read through those all too familiar words. My second attempt at studying however proved very convicting and life changing as this time, I paid attention to the context of the text (see what I did there).
Starting from the previous chapter helped me situate 1 Corinthians 13 in a much bigger picture which in turn helped me decipher the writer's original intent. Not only was my initial impression of 1 Corinthians 13 a far cry from the author's original intention, the solution to the issues that I had been having was in reality embedded in this passage.
Paul's focus was not on the romantic kind of love but was rather on love within a community. He described the kind of love that builds and nurtures communities in spite of obvious diversities. This love is holistic, removed from personal biases and anchored on the wellbeing of others all around us (a kind of love that the world could really use right now).
Not only did I learn what love actually is, I learnt what love is not. How many of my actions which I had previously termed as being out of love was in fact really only motivated by selfish interests and desires.
With the scales gradually falling from my eyes, I was confronted with an even bigger problem which is society's general view and interpretation of love. It is right there in the lyrics of our music, embedded deeply in the central theme of our movies and still it saturates every scene.
Popular culture usually not only presents love only in the context of family and romantic relationships and patriotism. It also presents a distorted view and "me centered" view of love that is a far cry from what love should really look like.
Then a flicker of hope; one almost as subtle as darkness slowly but surely giving way to light at the crack of dawn. This can be seen in the timeless words of Michael Jackson in "Heal the world" that centers on caring for others as well as Zach William's prayer in "Less like me" to God to help him see past himself.
Lastly, a movie "Fatherhood" by Kelvin Hart which preaches strength (not only for your sake but for the sake of others, selfless in decision making and in terms of laying down personal preferences for the sake of others, love and boundaries ( which on the surface may seem contradictory, but in fact is not) as well as interdependence in terms of a community only goes to show that despite the widespread wrong notions of love, there exists a number of people with a true understanding of what love truly is.
At this point, I believe the best way to close up a discussion like this is by considering what love really is. Love is patient and kind. It does not envy, boast and is not proud. It is not rude, self seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil and rejoices with the truth.
While we are still on the subject of love, I did come across a tweet on a few things that may look like love but in the actual sense are unhealthy. In his words, love is not
● "People pleasing in the name of love"
● "Burning out in the name of service"
● "Lacking boundaries in the name of sacrifice."
● Permit me to add that love is not inferiority complex in the name of "considering others as better than ourselves (in humility)"
In conclusion; love is not love. Love is not a feeling and love is not a fleeting emotion. It is a conscious decision to always see past ourselves. It is a choice to stand for what is right and not see diversity as threatening but rather embracing diversity. Finally, it is respecting others and being considerate in our actions as well as "looking not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others."