Loving our Rival

Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.

I Corinthians 13:5-7

Every year, we start the football season with a rival game. History has proven that this one game a year has a tendency to bring out some very ugly behavior starting a few days before and going through the game and after. I’ve watched over the years as even adults on social media roast the opposing crowds and students, seeing only the worst; and praise their own crowd and students, seeing only the best. Although I’ve lived in one of the two towns for 8 years now (let’s call it town A, only because it’s where I live), I wasn’t born and raised here and still have a tendency to be able to view it at least somewhat impartially. The rival town B is just a few miles away so I have many friends from both. 

This year, after the game, there were a group of students from town A who stayed after the game to help clean up the stands for the host school located in town B. They were praised and called out as being wonderful human beings, and rightly so! I’ve seen similar posts from town B about their students in recent years as well. Isn’t it just wonderful when we see good works praised? 

This whole dynamic has me thinking about our uncanny ability to judge entire groups of people based on a small subset of that group, if we want to. When it’s the group we are a part of, it’s easy to highlight the subsets and say, “See? Our group is made up of a whole lot of people like these. Take the time to notice this.” When it’s the group we are not a part of, it’s easy to dismiss these subsets as only a select few and not the majority. 

The same is true of negative behavior. When it’s the group we are a part of, it’s easy to dismiss the bad actions of a subset and claim that this isn’t how we as a group are. When it’s the group we are not a part of, it’s easy to highlight the subset as proof that the other group is inherently ugly (the majority).

It’s similar to a typical family. We fight within our family but don’t you dare take one of us on or you have all of us to deal with. 

As a community, I think this is healthy to a point. How wonderful it is to be a part of a community who stands up for each other and truly believes they live in a wonderful place! However, when we choose to point out the subsets who behave badly in neighboring communities as proof that our community is superior, we are missing something. 

The loudest subsets are often either the worst acting groups or the groups that do something spectacularly out of the ordinary to perform acts of kindness. Either time, most of the time, these groups are the minority by a long shot and there exists a non-vocal majority who are living their quiet lives, being kind to a stranger, speaking words of life to others, and doing kind acts of service that are rarely noticed. 

I choose to believe that our communities are made up of the majority of people like this, even if it is town B. 

So what can we learn from this?

Praise the good, all of it, everywhere. There will always be the small subsets of people who raise a ruckus and do things they shouldn’t. We may even be a part of that group sometimes. But if we focus on the good and assume the best in others, we are going to be living out the love of Jesus. He died on a cross for the person or persons you are criticizing because they are so valuable to Him. Thankfully, their poor actions do not determine their value. 

Be thankful for your community, see the good in it and value that, but let’s be careful not to highlight the bad elsewhere to make us feel better about ourselves. Let’s choose to love our rival.