America is a diverse culture with one common denominator: holidays.
Think about it: we’ve gone from a “melting pot” to a burning caldron. In the old days, you didn’t lock your front door; today, you can have a doorbell that’s really a video camera – with a live-feed to your mobile – so you can call the cops 24/7 to bust the guy who’s casing your place to rob you.
Holidays call “time out” on the battles we fight for market share or seats in Congress. This week, it’s the día de San Valentín (day of Saint Valentine): hearts and roses, bottles of wine and reservations for dinner will flow as America flirts with a relational dimension that is on the endangered emotions list.
Back in grade school – in an earlier, simpler era – it was common for mom to buy a Valentine box for her kid to take to class. Before class, the tradition was to “pass ‘em out:” a remembrance was put on every desk, without separating the bullies from the darlings. Warm wishes – printed hugs, courtesy of Hallmark – made the day “special.” Playground rivalries deferred to expressions of regard…
Psychology Today provides assistance to the big people who have grown out of the simpler “everyone is my Valentine” era. “How to Manage Your Enemies” (March 9, 2013) helps high-capacity office pros differentiate between friends (“unconditional trust”) and enemies (“unconditional mistrust”), and how to work alongside – or, around – them.
Before PT waded into that difficult land of turf wars and take-no-prisoners competition, Jesus recognized that interpersonal relationships were going to classify others on a spectrum of positive-negative designations. If life requires that you reset your relational posture based on their place on your friend-enemy rating system, the ability to be genuine will be sacrificed quickly. What’s the best baseline to adopt for healthy relationships to be maintained with everyone in your community? Listen in:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:42-48).
There you have it: the perfect approach is to do what comes naturally with your friendlies: love ‘em. Then, when you’re confronted by your enemies: love ‘em. Everyone who interfaces with you is supposed to find the same point-of-contact: a genuine affection that is not contrived, but conditioned. It isn’t what you do to gain advantage: it’s who you are, to show whose you are.
How do you kick “love” into high gear? Here’s the checklist that Paul gave the Corinthians – and, us – to get it perfected: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
So… suppose you get your upgrade on a long-haul flight, and the person you’re most likely to despise (professional, political, cultural) sits down next to you. What’s your best game-plan for the next four hours? What if you want to be a Christ-like Kingdom champion rather than a gladiator in the modern ideological arena?
Be patient; be kind; don’t be proud; don’t dishonor them; don’t be angry; don’t list their failures (based on your criterion); believe that they could be better… if someone was to show them how.
Happy Valentine’s Day!