34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.
“God does not merely tolerate sinners: he loves them…. God for all his ability to punish and for all his own spotless purity does not regard sinners with aversion, but with love, with the costly love we see in the cross where Jesus died to save them.”* Jesus lived, and taught his followers to live, a steadfast love expressed by the Greek word “agape.” He told his disciples he didn’t call them servants, but friends. And the main “fruit” he asked them to bear was to live in God’s love by loving one another.
Lord of love, your love is comforting, but not always comfortable. Give me the courage and commitment to move my life in the direction of loving others as you have loved me. Amen.
* Leon Morris, article “Love” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 494.
Our Small Group is taking a look at religious themes/ideas in movies like Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, & Casablanca. As we consider today’s topic, agape love, let’s see how the plot of Casablanca might help our understanding. We will be discussing the conclusion of the movie, so I suppose a “spoiler alert” is needed; however, that seems a bit odd for a movie released in 1943. It’d be like a Pastor opening his Easter sermon with, “For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read the book yet - Spoiler Alert: He is risen!”
Aside: I went to my butcher, Sam, to get some steaks cut for a special celebration. However, the cuts were too thick. I said, “Fillet it again, Sam.”
As we know from various sermons, there are different kinds of love. Eros or romantic love is certainly exhibited between Casablanca’s main characters, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) & Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), who had a passionate romance while in Paris just before the Nazi’s invaded. (Casablanca is considered the #1 romantic movie of all time for good reason.)
Philia or brotherly love is exhibited in the strong friendship between Rick, the nightclub owner, & Sam, his good friend & piano player. Sam tries to look out for Rick’s best interests when Ilsa returns & Rick makes sure Sam is taken care of when he makes plans to leave Casablanca.
Aside: My friend’s basement flooded the other day & damaged their entire DVD collection - except for the 1986 movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” He consoled his wife saying, “We’ll always have Ferris.”
Early in the movie, Rick demonstrates Philautia, love of self, when he proclaims that “I stick out my neck for nobody.” He demonstrates this conviction when he coldly refuses to help Signor Ugarte (Peter Lorre) when Ugarte is desperately trying to escape from the French police. Rick appears to be solely focused on himself & the financial rewards of running his successful nightclub, Rick’s Café’ Americain.
However, some cracks begin to appear in this persona. Annina Brandel, a newly-married immigrant from Bulgaria, comes to Rick for assistance. She & her husband desperately need money to escape Casablanca, but her husband is losing at the Roulette table. Rick asks the husband if he has tried 22. The croupier looks knowingly at Rick & the wheel miraculously stops at 22 - twice. Rick tells the husband to cash in his chips & don’t come back. The wife impetuously hugs Rick & the bartender & the head-waiter are overjoyed at Rick’s display of agape’ love.
Aside: We had a problem with ants & spiders around our house & called an exterminator. He told his crew "to round up the usual insects.”
At this point in the movie, agape, or self-sacrificial love begins to take center stage. General Major Strasser leads the German Officers in singing Die Wacht am Rhein. Victor Laszlo, the freedom fighter, orders the house band to play the French anthem, Marseillaise. After Rick’s approval, Laszlo starts singing & soon the entire bar joins in, drowning out the Germans. The Germans are furious & order Rick’s to be shut down. The fight for freedom is now a priority. (Steven Speilberg declared that this was the “most powerful movie scene ever.” Most of the cast were refugees/immigrants with 37 nationalities represented. Many of the extras had real tears in the scene & were so overcome with emotion that the production took a 1-hour break afterwards.)
Aside: My friend owns a jewelry store. His old girlfriend from years ago surprised him with a visit. He lamented, “Of all the gem joints in all the towns of the world, she walks into mine.”
In the topsy-turvy ending of our movie, Rick lies to Ilsa saying he doesn’t love her. He insists that Ilsa & Laszlo leave on the plane to Lisbon to further the cause of freedom. Rick has now willingly sacrificed his own love for Ilsa, his successful business, & even his personal safety for a cause greater than himself. What an amazing transformation!
Well, upon reflection, maybe it isn’t that unusual. Perhaps our own faithwalk demonstrates a similar conversion. We start our adult life looking out for #1 & selfishly pursuing our own goals. But then we begin spending our once-treasured free Sunday mornings happily in worship. Instead of binge-watching shows on Netflix, we devote an evening attending a Bible study. Our disciplined “in/out of church in 5 minutes or less” routine is upended as we spend extra time at church volunteering to usher or chatting with people we know. And our bank account, which had been our reliable "happiness scorecard," now reflects donations to God & to causes that we hadn’t even heard of a few years earlier.
As the plane takes off, Rick walks away with Captain Renault to join the fight for freedom at the Free-French garrison in Brazzaville. I would submit, that the closing line, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” can metaphorically indicate that Rick is now all-in on self-sacrificial love. Like Rick, maybe we, too, could continue to shape our own inclinations/impulses around agape love &, as we pass through the Pearly Gates, we might just hear a heavenly voice say, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
PS: While the Bible speaks of the 7 Seals of God that are a prelude to the apocalypse, some theologians speculate there may be an 8th Seal - which we narrowly dodged in 2008 when Madonna’s proposal to remake Casablanca starring herself & Ashton Kutcher was rejected. (Um, this 8th seal may need some verification – Editor.)
*Casablanca, Directed by Michael Curtiz. Warner Brothers, 1942.
13720 Roe Ave.
Leawood, KS 66224
24000 W. Valley Pkwy
Olathe, KS 66061
1601 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
601 NE Jefferson St.
Blue Springs, MO 64014
8412 W. 95th St.
Overland Park, KS 66212
Can’t find something? Let us help.