Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Not A Valentine's Day Message But the All-Time Greatest Love

It's that time of the year once more. It's not an official holiday, but it's day that is set aside for lovers. Retail stores love this time of the year because of the business this time means for their profits. Dentists love it because all the candy purchased means more business and more profits for them. Like Christmas if maybe not as much, it raises our expectations of our conduct and those of others. When I was growing up in St. Louis, MISSOURI, I would get upset if I didn't get as many cards as my peers, and I felt left out. This day was for "the popular kids." At any age, it supposedly causes us to ponder love and its meaning. But quite a few people find this day irrelevant to them or even hurtful. This especially includes many single people and those in bad marriages, and those who are too poor to participate in its festivities.

What Is Love, According To Culture?

You know what time I'm referring to. Valentine's Day. We're flooded with commercials to "buy that perfect gift" to "make your Valentine feel special." Commercials show tempting, tasty, and calorie-laden treats and call on us to "show our Valentines our love" by giving them these treats. Never mind that these treats are filled with empty calories and little or no nutritional value. Never mind that answering the call to "get that perfect gift" may set the giver up for credit card debt. What IS love? Today, our culture equates it with sex. Our popular songs extol love but, nine times out of ten, the love that they refer to is "eros," which is sexual love. According to most of these songs, the ultimate show of love is sexual intercourse. This message, as we parents are painfully aware, is not lost on our children and teens. Getting the message effectively, many think that to "be loved" that they need to offer their bodies to their boyfriends or girlfriends. Culture equates love with giving material things, which is just a part of love. Culture is correct in lauding parental love as well as phileo," which is love between friends. Yet the mood of holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day pressure and even heap guilt on people to purchases gifts that they may not even be within their means, including for children, friends, and spouses. What kind of love is that?

How Does God Define Love?

We who are Christians know that God and Scripture do not define love as culture does. It did not require Valentine's Day, and even the re-telling the history of St. Valentine, its namesake, to define real love for us Christians. We know that, especially in the New Testament, God gives us commands to love: "Love God with all your mind, your heart, your soul, and your strength," "Love your neighbor as yourself," and even, "Love your enemies"! These are not the world's ideas of love! God defines love as a verb, something not that we feel but something that we do. He considers it as a sacrifice of ourselves, of our time, our convenience, our pleasure, our comfort, our money, our reputations, or even of our lives. Love is, as we Christians know, hard stuff. It's not easy and it's not fun, though it's rewarding. Because our culture pounds it into us that "if it feels good, do it" and because of our self-centered, fallen natures, practicing love God's way is tough. I think each of you would agree with that! Loving is tough, because it involves death to ourselves, denying ourselves, carrying our personal crosses, and following Christ. Loving God's way is tough, even in our homes. Correct?

God's Own Example

We Christians know that we have the perfect Role Model of this kind of self-sacrificial love. Even more, we are the objects of this self-sacrificial love. His. We know that if it were not for His sacrifice of Himself in His Son, we would not have eternal life, in this world or in the life to come. It's impossible to outdo Him in self-sacrifice, when, In Christ, He came to His creation, lived a perfect life among His imperfect creation, died a horrible death in between two criminals, and returned to life again. This all meant sacrifice for Him. His comfort. His convenience. His reputation. His life. He gave up His heavenly wealth temporarily, to make us spiritually rich. He "became sin," dying in our place, so that God can treat us as though we had lived His perfect life! This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is love. And we are called to show this kind of self-sacrificing love for all the people in our lives, our family members and relatives, our friends and acquaintances, strangers, and even our enemies. Our work is cut out for us.

Practical Implications for Us

We know what to do! We may not know the specifics of each situation and what to do, but we know that we are called to do the most loving thing in each situation. Get up in the middle of the night to clean up the vomit of an ill child or listen to a distraught teen. Do the dishes for your wife or build up your husband. Obey your parents or willingly help with the chores. Hug a loved one. Be there for your friend. Refrain from passing on a juicy story about an absent party. Go directly to the person you're upset with and deal with them in love. Forget a grudge against a person who has hurt you. Encourage a depressed person. Give sacrificially to a cause that touches you. Take a call in the middle of the night from an upset friend. I can go on and on. Though many of these things cost no money, they always cost us something, and involve a measure of sacrifice from us. But none come close to the sacrificial love that God showed in Christ when He came to Earth, lived as one of us for over 30 years, and died for us. We know what love is!

Whether you celebrate Valentine's Day or not, my best to you in Christ!

Lisa DeSherlia

History of St. Valentine's Day

St. Valentine

The above photo is courtesy of MorgueFile, is by "Melodi2" and can be found here.

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