Here we are on Valentine’s Day 2019, a day on which many people celebrate love, but what exactly does that mean? Is it a day where people truly step back and think about what love is, or is the focus on what they get or what kind of display of affection their significant others do for them? I remember working for a company that announced over the loudspeaker the names of everyone who had received a delivery during the previous 30 minutes. It went on all day long! Over the years it began to feel almost like a contest of how many times your name would be announced, as if it was some indicator of how much you were loved by others. What started as an easy way to organize deliveries for a people within a large company became a source of pain for so many people whose names weren’t called multiple times or maybe not called at all. My point is, what should we celebrate when we think of love? We should celebrate the traits of what it means to truly love others. 1 Corinthians 13 tell us the true nature of love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
We like to quote those verses or turn them into wall hangings, but so often they become exactly what they shouldn’t – decoration. The more we look at things, the easier it is to stop seeing them. It is easy to get caught up in the trap of saying the right things, but not living them. It’s easy to get lost in our own desires or how others aren’t acting or reacting like we think they should. Once we start down that road, it leads nowhere positive. Look at the beginning of that same passage of scripture:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
We like to jump to the section that so beautifully describes the nature of love, but skip over the first few verses that tell us we can be the most eloquent, gifted, generous person on the planet, but if we do not have love, then we are NOTHING! Let that sink in for a moment. (I’ll wait…) It’s quite a statement of what happens when we get so focused on ourselves and start thinking everyone else is wrong or are doing things wrong. We start expecting things and then get upset when we don’t get them. It is one of the many reasons why Valentine’s Day has become such a commercialized day of supposed romance. Society keeps trying to define for us what love looks like, and we just keep absorbing that view. We need to stop. We need to get back to truly loving each other, and we need to do it every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.
In a time when we are more divided than ever in so many realms, it is good to remember what Jesus tells us in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” We should look different, act different and BE different. That doesn’t seem so tough when you think about loving those who love you and treat you well, but when you consider loving the people who have mistreated you, judged or slandered you or a host of other things, it can be a daunting thing to undertake. It isn’t easy to love the unlovable or those who mistreat us, but I just keep thinking about how much Jesus loved us – even while we were (or are) unlovable. Philippians 2:5, it tells us, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” Yeah, there is a LOT that could be said about that, but when it comes to love, we are to view love the way He viewed love. And yes, we are to love even those who mistreat us. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be mature and complete, as your heavenly Father is mature and complete.” (Matthew 5:43-48) Being mature or complete is a tall order, but if we are to follow in the steps of our Father, we have to be willing to set aside our pride and love genuinely.
So on this day of love, I will leave you with this: Let us go out into this world with love and kindness. Let us stop being so quick to judge each other and instead pray for each other and lift up those around us. Don’t try to pull the weeds in someone else’s garden, but rather cultivate what you want to grow in yours. Love in ways that far exceed your words, even if those around you do not do the same. Love in spite of your expectations. Love in the midst of pain. Love when you are on top of the world, or when it is crashing down around you. Love completely, not for what you get but for what you can give. We did nothing to deserve God’s incredible love and He did not reserve it for only the “worthy.” He loved every single one of us in spite of ourselves. Love because you have been loved. Bless because you have been blessed. Forgive because you have been forgiven. And remember just because God made it that simple; He never said it would be easy.
Blessings and love to you and yours!