A moniker that has graced the walls of barrios for decades. From tattoos to T-shirts, Por Vida is something that we have learned to use as a symbol of our affection, of our undying loyalty and carnalismo for one another. A love and loyalty for your old lady, Chano y Chula P/V, a love for your neighborhood, Cuca P/V, a love for your cliqua, Crazy Train Locas P/V, the list can go on and on. But what really is the meaning behind this phrase, this epithet of sorts? Por Vida, For life Ese, what does this really mean?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines loyalty as "a loyal feeling : a feeling of strong support for someone or something; unswerving in allegiance; faithful in allegiance."
Por Vida, an unswerving, faithful allegiance to someone or something. Supporting someone when they are unable to support themselves. Believing in them when they have lost their way. Having a faithful allegiance to someone when everything around them has proven otherwise. Trusting them when everyone else has given up. Remembering them when they have been forgotten by all. A love that transcends time and place, a loyalty that transcends all wrong done to an individual. " Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
I have spent my life fighting for the underdog. I have always wanted to believe the good in man. To believe that though a man be without status or monetary riches, he is rich in loyalty and respect. For so long I had the Robin Hood mentality, fight for the poor and underrepresented, and fight against the wealthy mainstream. And yet, as I have grown older I have come to understand the stark reality of life. That even within the neighborhoods, the barrios, the gente, the poor, the underrepresented, the forgotten, the down and out, even amongst the outcasts, loyalty is fleeting. Loyalty is not a case that most men want to plead. Rather we look to fill our flesh, to puff up our ego, and to meet the needs of self, rather than others. Por Vida we say and yet at the convenience of others we have been easily forgotten or perhaps misunderstood. I can count those loyal few on one hand, calling them by name, vividly seeing their faces as we speak of this moniker, for life Ese. They are the very few who have been willing to stand with us when all else have abandoned ship. Those few who we are not ashamed to call out to when we are pressed in on all sides, crushed but not ruined. Those few individuals whose love goes far beyond the outward appearance, but have an undying, unwavering love for you. A love that hopes, a love that trusts, a love that is willing to bear your burden, a love that is willing to see the good, a love that is long suffering and patient, a love that is willing to hold fast in the midst of a tumultuous storm. "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24) Friends, loyal friends, individuals who are worth their weight in gold, are few and far between. Very few will ever be blessed with the ability to encounter such rare individuals. Those individuals of whom you can write their name down and etch "P/V" next to it because they are for life, loyal to the end, never wanting anything from you, but willing to give everything for you.
If we are truthful with ourselves most of us can say with 100% surety that such an individual is rare. And if we have had the blessing of knowing such an individual we crave their presence in our lives. Their very presence calms the storm within, they make you feel invincible and free, their very words spark a fire inside of you and you walk away knowing that you were in the presence of greatness.
What is it about these types of individuals that can breathe life into your heart?
It is the presence of love. You know that they love you without strings attached. You know that they love you and are interested in you as an individual. The real you. The very person you are in the darkness of the hour when no one else is around. The presence of love, agape, a selfless love, dispels the presence of fear in an instance. Where light exists, darkness must flee. Where faith exists, doubting must run. Where life exists, death must bow.
1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. How often it is used to model the sentimental love of flawed individuals and relationships. And yet, what 1 Corinthians 13 was originally intended for was to communicate the perfect love of Christ in the life of the flawed individual, sinful man. The very name of Christ can so easily be replaced within these verses and still hold completely true:
Christ suffers long and is kind;
Christ does not envy;
Christ does not parade itself,
Christ is not puffed up;
Christ does not behave rudely,
Christ does not seek His own,
Christ is not provoked,
Christ thinks no evil;
Christ does not rejoice in iniquity,
Christ rejoices in the truth;
Christ bears all things,
Christ believes all things,
Christ hopes all things,
Christ endures all things.
Christ never fails.
The very reason why man is so drawn to the loyal few, those that are down For Life, is because they are a reflection of perfect love. A love that was willing to suffer many things (Luke 9:22), a love that suffered rejection, heartache, loneliness, physical abuse, marring, and crucifixion. Not only to allow us life, but also to demonstrate His perfect love for us through the only begotten Son of the Father, Jesus Christ. "But God demonstrated His own love for us, while we were yet sinners He died for us." (Romans 5:8) The crucifixion of Christ was never a mandate, it was a choice. Just as Christ chose to suffer and die that we might have eternal life, so you must choose where your loyalties lie. Whether they be with man or with God, it is a conscious choice every man must make. "Greater love hath no man than this that he would lay down his very life for his friend." (John 15:13)