This week our country will celebrate love with a national holiday. Whether you call it Valentine’s Day, Single’s Awareness Day, or The Hallmark Money Maker, this holiday is second only to Christmas in regards to the amount of money spent by consumers. With an estimated 17.6 billion spent in 2012 according to the Huffington Post. That’s about $126 per person. It seems the majority of America is focused on this iconic day.
And I am not surprised. Ask anyone what they want most, and it would surprise me, if they were honest with themselves, if they didn’t say “to be loved.” We are hard wired to seek it out. We were created to be loved and give love. The problem is the source of that love. In our culture, it is impossible to come away from television, movies, books and music with a true idea of what love is. In our society, love is reciprocal. If someone loves me, then, I will love him or her in return. In our worldview, we are the focus of the word love. It is self-seeking, selfish and self-promoting. It is materialistic and sexualized. It’s a far cry from how Scripture defines the term. And yet, the world that does not know Christ shouldn’t have it all together, but I find that we as believers tend to follow the secular definition. We are comfortable with “love” as long as we are the ones benefiting.
What does the Word say about what love is? I warn you, it is not what sells Hallmark cards. There are no fuzzy bunnies here. The Christian life is difficult to live out, and the center of being a Christ follower is love. Thus, love is hard. Matthew 5:43-48 says, “’You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father 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 will you have? Don’t event the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’” The love that we have as believers is one that sets us a part. It makes us different. It doesn’t make sense to those around us. We love unconditionally as Christ does. Our love cannot be earned, and it cannot be made void. It doesn’t end in hard times. It is for everyone in every season. We can only love that way through the Holy Spirit, but when we love that way, God shines through us to those around us. It’s countercultural.
Christian love is sacrificial. It is selfless. It gives with reckless abandon for the cause of Christ. Listen to the words of the Lord through Luke, “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from who you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (6:27-36). This isn’t the American way, is it? This love that Christ calls us to tells us to give and give and give and expect NOTHING in return. The reward is that our souls will be shaped more into His glorious likeness. We will be a witness of His GREAT love. The fact is: We CANNOT out give the Lord!
We show that we love Christ by loving others. This is the greatest commandment: To love one another. To lay our lives down for others; for everyone. We cannot say that we love God and hate those around us. God’s Word calls us liars (John 15:9-13and 1 John 4:7-21). We cannot say that we are followers of Christ as we drive by homeless people and turn our heads the other way, as we sit in our grand houses full while others are hungry, as we put our children to bed knowing that there are those without families. We cannot sit idly by. Whatever God calls you to do, He has called you to LOVE!
I pray that as Valentine’s Day approaches, you reflect on the true love that this world needs. I pray you and I will live out that love for others so that they may be drawn through the power of the Holy Sprit to Christ. Be merciful and gracious. Be blessed!