Valentine’s Day

Feb. 14 is quickly approaching, and unless you’re Charlie Brown, you’ve probably given and received a good number of valentines in your life. It’s fun to say “I love you” in beautiful, sparkling ways. Even a candy bar looks better if it’s got a red ribbon around it.

But love doesn’t always come wrapped that way. Love — the real thing — appears in ways you might not expect or immediately recognize. It may come in a father’s teary eyes. Or in a teenage son’s awkward hug. Or in a small child’s crayon drawing, created just for you. Or in a friend’s quiet hand on your shoulder. Or on a lonely, blood-soaked cross one dark Friday, outside Jerusalem’s gates.

When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, his response in Mark 12:30 and 31 was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” It has been said that in Christ’s response, he sums up all Ten Commandments in these two. It makes them easy to remember, but so hard to master. If we took all the marriage, family and relationship books and combined it all into one statement, it would be, “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Loving others is hard, especially if we mistake real love as being about feelings. Some kinds of love can be like that, romantic love, friendship, affection, yet God’s love — real love is about choice. Colossians 3:14 makes this clear, “And over all virtues, put on love, which binds them all together.” We are to “put on love.” It is not an option, it is a conscious decision to be obedient and in the same way you would put on a shirt, you are to put on love…wear it over your human nature. Real love is not a human thing; it’s a God thing. It’s a powerful, powerful, force which is unconditional. Real love enables us to love even those who seem to deserve it the least. In my experience, there have been occasions during counseling when a person would confess their marriage was dead and I would say, “I want you to go home and act as if you love your spouse.”

Some have asked, “How can I go home and act like I’m in love when I don’t feel anything?”

I’d respond, “It’s not about how you feel. Choose to love. Allow God’s love in you to determine your actions rather than your feelings.”

It is an incredible thing that, as God’s Word instructs us about what to do, God’s love gives us the power to do it. There have been times in my own life when, wanting to be obedient, I’ve prayed, “God I don’t even like this person! It’s beyond my ability to love them. Please give me the ability to love them through you.” God then transforms me. He enables me to show kindness to the one who has offended me. Even when a person has hurt my feelings, he causes me to love them anyway. If we only loved those who have never hurt us, in a very short while, we would love nobody. You see, Jesus didn’t tell us just to love one another. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Think of what would happen in your world if you would apply these simple truths from God’s Word. What a transition. If we allowed the Holy Spirit to work in us, it would be an extreme makeover just in time for Valentine’s Day.