We tend to think of Valentines Day as a day of love. Yet we all well know that there are days and moments that remind us of love much, much more.
You remember what love is when you are at the airport to say goodbye to your loved ones once again. When a stranger offers a hand to help you. When a child jumps you over with a hug. When you see the pain in eyes that you love. When your assistant says the 200th ‘good morning, miss’ of the year with a smile. When you see an elderly couple holding hands in the hospital. When a fellow-believer phones you on hard days just to ask how you are doing. When you get to experience the beauty of creation when traveling through 10 countries, solo. When you have someone who always has ‘time for a coffee with you’. When you get to comfort a child’s shaking heart. When you lose a great love. When you get to serve soup to the poor on a rainy day. When you see compassion in your brother’s eye. When someone says ‘I am praying for you’.
It is in these small, fleeting moments that we realize: This is what life is all about.
The world says: ‘Love yourself’. But self-love is not really commendable in humans. While loving ourselves accurately is good, and even necessary for loving our neighbor, the Bible also speaks to the negative category of those who are “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). It takes true wisdom and obedience in our walk with God to become humble servants of Him (and others).
On the contrary, Jesus says: ‘Love others…’
If love is an act of the will—not motivated by need, not measuring worth, not requiring reciprocity—then there is no such category as “unlovable.” This is what Jesus teaches in the parable of the good Samaritan.
When the lawyer seeks to qualify the meaning of the Great Commandment by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), Jesus responds with a story about a man who shows love to the “unlovable.” It is, of course, a story about himself—and a story about everyone of us who has received rescue at His hands. A costly and unsought rescue bestowed upon an undeserving recipient.
What’s at the heart of Christian love? Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, once wrote, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14).
And “by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5: 2-3).
In an article of Jen Wilkin, she wrote that when we begin to follow Christ, we resolve to love our neighbor even if it costs us. And it does cost us—it costs us our preferences, our time, our financial resources, our entitlement, our stereotypes. At times, it costs us our popularity, respect, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the brokenness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing empathy, and as we mature, we resolve to love our neighbor no matter what it costs us.
This is the kind of love that marks believers as distinct from the world.
Not only on Valentines Day, but every day, I have to remind myself that my Christian advice, my loving correction to help others and my best attempts to ‘do the right thing’ in my pursuit of perfection will always fall short of selfless, Christ-like love.
We are called, above all, to love souls well.