The Selfishness of Theatrical Love
Who is your love for others really about?
There is a really big difference between theatrical love for others and genuine love for others. Too often I’ve leaned on a more theatrical love in an attempt to show my “goodness” to others. I say theatrical because all of what I do is just a show. I will speak kindly to others in order to make myself seem nice. I will reach out to others in order to make myself seem thoughtful. I will overextend myself in order to make myself seem giving. Though I may appear loving on the outside, it’s all a part of the show. And it’s a show that really has little care for others and really only has care for myself.
In reality, it’s a show to get people to think highly of me. It’s a show so people will praise my name. It’s a show so that I will fit in with others. In fact, as soon as there is no one to see the show, the “love” that I have for others completely dissipates. When it boils down to it, this theatrical love has absolutely nothing to do with actually loving others, and really only has to do with loving myself and finding a way to be exalted in minds of others. As I reflect on the love of Christ and the genuine nature of his sacrificial love for others, or I reflect on the picture of love presented by Paul in 1 Corinthians, I’m deeply convicted by the fictitious nature of my love and the selfishness of my actions towards others.
I think that is the beauty of the love of Christ as He willingly went to the cross to die on our behalf. Whereas the endurance of my “love” for others only remains so long as I am receiving some personal reward (I.e. worldly exaltation), the endurance of Christ’s love remained even though it had dire consequences. The endurance of Christ’s love remained for people, even though they hated him and scorned him. The endurance of Christ’s love remained for people, even though they rejected Him. The endurance of Christ's love remained even as he bore the wrath and the penalty for sin that we deserved. It was a sacrificial love that I can’t even begin to comprehend. When I look at the love of Christ, I recognize that is the love that I want to have for others. A love that is endurant and genuine. A love that cares more about the other person than myself. A love that remains not only in the face of lack of gain but also in the face of tribulation. I look forward earnestly to that day when God will cultivate that same genuine love in my heart for others.
What does your love for others look like? Who is your love for others really about? Do you curse others in your heart while you write kind words on their Instagram posts? Are you strategic about the way you help others so that you can maximize the way that you are seen in a certain scenario? Are the kind things you do actually rooted in self-exaltation? This is all a part of the perils of theatrical love, which I argue is not love for others at all, but only love for oneself. It is this theatrical love that the world attempts to pass off as genuine love. But there has only been one example of perfect love demonstrated in history by mankind, and that is the sacrificial love of Christ displayed on the cross. When we are called to love others by Christ, that is the love that we are to emulate. There is no greater love than the love that He displayed as He willingly laid down His life.
It is understanding that love that brings us to our knees in humility and praise at the grace and mercy of God. It is that love that we so desperately desire in our hearts. We keep seeking to find that love in anything else we can including relationships, food, sex, video games, sports, social media following- you name it. But everywhere we turn, we find ourselves wallowing in complete emptiness. This is because that love can not be found anywhere except at the foot of the cross. When you understand that love, it changes you. It changed me. It continues to change me. And I pray that as you reflect on it, it will change you.
“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-15