Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. [Matthew 16:24-25 (NLT)]
Black and white, up and down, in and out, over and under, love and hate: they’re all opposites. Or are they? In my reading one morning, I came across a quote from Billy Graham: “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s selfishness.” This gave me thought. Hate is an intense emotion all its own and perhaps its opposite, rather than love, would be something like apathy or indifference. What intrigued me was thinking about selfishness and love as opposites.
While reading the newspaper later that day, I came across a letter to an advice columnist from an alcoholic woman who had just discovered she was six weeks pregnant. Although she professed to love her unborn baby, she was unwilling to change her life to protect the innocent life in her womb. Feeding her disease was more important than nurturing her child. In a way, her letter actually proved Graham’s point.
What is selfishness? Plain and simple, selfishness is a sin; it is putting oneself first and ignoring the needs and feelings of others. A characteristic of a sinful society, there seems to be a lot of selfishness going around nowadays! Most of the time, “Me” takes precedence over “Thee,” “I” has more significance than “You,” and “We” are definitely more important than “Them” in our troubled world.
It’s too easy to think of hate as the opposite of love; if we don’t hate or even dislike, then we tell ourselves we’re applying Jesus’ command to love. If we think of selfishness as the opposite of love, however, far more is asked of us. Being unselfish implies a certain amount of action on our part: a giving up of self and a giving of self to another. Love requires effort and not hating is nowhere near enough.
Love is the doorway through which the human soul passes from selfishness to service. [Jack Hyles]