"Love, love, love" sang the Beatles, "All you need is love." The Apostle Paul tells us that faith and hope are important, but the greatest thing is love. Jesus told us that "For God so loved the world" and Jesus reminds us that the greatest act of love is to lay your life down for someone. The Old Testament prophets gave their lives because of their love of God and their love of God's people. So as much as we read about love in scripture, love must be something God feels is important to those of us who profess to be the people of God. As Valentine's Day approaches, the "day of love," what does it really mean to love as God asks us to love?
First we need to remember why this "love day" came about to begin with. Seems like there are as many legends as there are valentines. However one consistency is the fact that there were at least two saints whose name was Valentine. One Valentine secretly married couples so the husband wouldn't have to serve in the army (only single men went to war) and the other Valentine was a priest jailed for helping Christians. He fell in love with the jailer's daughter and sent her little love notes - hence our valentines.
Everything that surrounds Valentine's Day has to do with romantic love and fertility. But as we read about love in scripture, it has little to do with romantic, Valentine's Day, type of love. Love in scripture has to do with sacrificial love, of love that puts others first and puts ourselves somewhere down the list. As Paul explains the qualities of love, he reminds us that love is something that is patient and kind and doesn't keep track of wrongs. Love honors all people. Paul reminds us that we can do all the great works of self-sacrifice and good and philanthropy, but if we don't do it because we truly love, then we are wasting our time. Love is hard.
Imagine what this looks like in your everyday life. It means being patient with those we work with who just aren't as good and ethical as we are; it means having respect for the dirty, smelly homeless man who walks up to you on your way to lunch; it means taking the time to help the bossy elderly lady even though you are late for an important date; it means giving the money you saved for that new TV to the family who just lost all they had when their house burned down. It means giving up that day sunning at the pool because your church really needs you to help set up and serve the free dinner. And all this not because you 'should' or because you feel "guilty" or because you believe you are earning favor with God or stars in heaven but because you know the love of God in Jesus Christ and because God first loved you.
Love is the greatest evangelistic tool there is. Not the Valentine's Day type of love, but the love that we give to the unlovable, the hard to love, the impossible to love, the irritating. Because as people see what we are able to do through the love Christ has for us, they too can begin to come to understand what the love of Jesus is all about. We love because Jesus first loved us and we are able to share that love with those we could never imagine we could love.
As Valentine's Day rolls around, give those chocolates to the one you love, but remember, too, the love that God in Jesus Christ has for you and let that change your life.
(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)