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Monday, February 13, 2012

Jesus, Our First Valentine

As Valentine's Day draws near, our thoughts turn to contemplating love and romance.  The season may not be so sweet for those spending it alone, especially if they are showered with well-meaning but misplaced condolences for their "solitude."  Even those who have a sweetheart my find it doesn't quite live up to the perfect fairytale hype when life gets in the way. It's seasons like this when we need to be reminded of what really matters.  I know it may sound trite, but I will say it again--God still wants to be your valentine.

Valentine's day started out as a religious holiday, and centered around some martyrs who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their beliefs on February 14th.  It served as a replacement for a secular holiday that came around the same time.  We have Chaucer to thank for giving us the romantic elements of the holiday as it is celebrated now.

So, turning back to the roots of Valentine's Day, we ought to remember that love in its purest form is better exemplified by the cross than by a box of chocolates.  Even though chocolate and flowers are sweet, the kind of love that lasts is the kind that comes from the Lord. Allow me to remind you of the characteristics of His supernatural love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NIV)
 Look closely at each of these qualities.  This is no ordinary kind of love that is merely motivated by physical attraction or waves of emotion.  It is sacrifice and giving.  Godly love sticks around in hard times, and it shines even when it is not returned. It is applied when it is not deserved, and it is shaped by integrity, justice, and graciousness.  When it is put to the test, it is found to be equally emotion and belief, unshakeable, lacking in nothing, perfect. Simply put, it is covered in the fingerprints of its maker, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jesus, our first Valentine, holds the designation of being the only one in history to have truly died for love--I mean love in its elemental form.  He loves us still!  Those who know Him will never have to say that they are alone and unloved on February 14th.  It's just not true.

Where does that leave us?  I see only a challenge to imitate that kind of love, whether we are dealing with a sweetheart or a stranger.  Think it's impossible? Well, it would be, without God's help, "but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19: 26 NIV).  When we know the Lord and submit to His instruction, applying ourselves to obey Him every day, no matter what, we will begin to love as He loves.  This kind of pure love comes first when we love and honor God with our very beings, and humbly open every part of ourselves to His scrutiny and correction.  The rest falls into place after we submit.

This Valentine's Day, we ought to challenge ourselves with the "love" passage in 1 Corinthians. The time of this earth is growing shorter each day; never before has it been so critical to pay attention to the lesson. Do we personally know the author of love? Are we living up to His perfect example?  Have we asked God how He would have us improve?  Let us settle this today.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 9-11 NIV)