This week we celebrate that holiday of holidays (ask any florist!) – Valentine’s Day!
This is the holiday when every guy worth his salt will do something to get out of the dog house with the one he loves, and every girl, if she is smart, can milk that for all it’s worth!
At this time of the year, if you are a people-watcher, as I am, it is interesting to go to any mall or shopping center and watch the people. Every florist kiosk in the mall is busy. Every card shop has a line at the checkout. Every candy store is filled to overflowing. Even the jewelry shops do a bang-up business as well.
The common denominator in each of these shops is that the predominant customers are men — guys doing their dead-level best to demonstrate to their mates or girlfriends their love in some sort of frilly way.
Do you recall how you celebrated Valentine’s Day in your younger years? I remember as a kid in grade school always going through this “ritual” where we were expected to give Valentines to every other kid in class!
We would take what seemed like hours to write out a message on each one and address the envelope for each person by hand and take it to school and put them in a bag and somehow express our “love” for our classmates – well, most of the time!
One year I was doing this, but I had been having a particular problem with a young girl in my class by the name of Judy. Judy seemed to pick on me mercilessly. Everything I did she made fun of. She even seemed to be watching my every move to see when I would mess up. (Today, we would call that “stalking”)
And her ridicule seemed to be contagious. She would get others – boys and girls alike – to join her. And at Valentine’s Day, I was expected to give Judy a valentine, telling her how thankful I was for her, and how much I enjoyed being in her class!
My mother saw my disdain over writing this particular valentine, and she encouraged me to do it anyway, as a means of demonstrating the love of Christ towards this girl. Out of obedience, and, I must admit, not because I really wanted to, I wrote that valentine. I addressed it and took it to class and put it in the paper bag with Judy’s name on it.
Judy and I never talked about that valentine, but she never treated me so meanly after that! I learned a lesson that day – that love can conquer all things.
You know, what is true in elementary school is also true in life: Love conquers all things.
No, I am not talking about love as we see it so often portrayed on television or in the movies. What we see there is so… so… adolescent! It is one set of glands calling to another set of glands, and saying not, “I love you!” but “I lust after you and want you for my own selfish desires and gratification!”
True love is sacrificial in nature. It is doing things you don’t want to do necessarily to help the one you love. It may mean doing household chores when you don’t have the time nor the motivation to do them. It may include staying home rather than going out for the night, when your partner needs you.
It is giving of yourself, so that your mate’s greatest need — according to their standards, not yours — is being met. True love is seeking the highest good for the one you love!
Come to think of it, that’s what God is all about – demonstrating true love. We want to think about God as being a loving God, caring for us when we are down, picking us up when we fall and all, but when things go wrong we tend to reject Him as bring a loving, caring God at all!
Romans 5:8 tells us that “…God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And 1 John 4:7-11 tells us that God is love.
In fact, we are specifically encouraged in this way: “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”
The point is this: We have a sin problem. It is universal. No one is exempt. And God cannot deal with sin. So if we are going to spend eternity with God, that sin problem must be dealt with. Anything you or I could do to deal with it would be woefully inadequate.
But God dealt with it by sending His own Son to die for us. The challenge then is for me to simply accept that demonstration of supernatural love for me by trusting in Christ alone (not my own efforts, not my own good deeds, or gifts or church attendance or baptism or whatever else I trust in other than Christ) to get me to heaven!
Won’t you simply trust Him?
Oh, and there is one other thing.
In 1 John 4, that segment concludes with these words: “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.”
You and I need to treat others kindly, to truly love each other. I don’t care how much they slow you down, or cut in front of you on the highway.
It does not matter whether they bully you at school or not. They need to see the love of Christ in you! It may be the only REAL Valentine they get!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.