Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays, despite my husband's insistence that it is a manufactured holiday created by Hallmark and Russell Stover's to sell more products. Although this may be true, I don't particularly care. Valentine's Day is pink, fluffy, chocolat-y, and all about love. I love love. Check out my list of favorite books and movies, and you'll see. Just the word, love, gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Yet, as I look around at all of the advertisements and special products for sale around Valentine's Day, I can't help but think we've missed the point a bit. Love is not just a romantic sentiment, a fluttery feeling one has for someone else. Love is not just the feeling of contentment that comes from spending time with close friends and family. Love is not just the moments of happiness we experience when we share our lives with others. Much as I hate to admit it at times, love is not just warm and fuzzy. Love, real love, goes much deeper than that.
1st Corinthians says that love is patient and kind, it does not envy nor does it boast. Love bears all things and is not self-seeking. Love never fails.
Colossians tells us that love is placed over all other virtues and binds them all in perfect unity.
John 3 states that God loved the world so much he sent his son to die so that all could be united with him.
Matthew 22 says that true love is loving a neighbor as much as we love ourselves, while Romans 8 tells us that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ.
Proverbs 20 states that love is what keeps a king secure on his throne, and Song of Songs declares love to be better than wine and as strong as death.
In Luke 6 Jesus maintains that in order to really love, one must learn to love one's enemies, going so far as to give a thief that which he would steal-- to give up what is rightfully yours.
Obviously, love is not just warm and fuzzy.
The early Christians celebrated what became known as a "love feast". It was a time of fellowship among believers in which wine and bread would be shared and the poor would be included. It later became the traditional Eucharist celebration, in which we remember God's sacrifice of love for the world. At the end of the love, or agape feast, the early Christians would impart to one another the kiss of peace. The Romans, in an attempt to persecute the Christians, accused the Christians of participating in orgies and mocked them by saying, "Look at how these Christians love." Yet, throughout their trials and tribulations, the early Christians continued to love. We, as contemporary Christians, are called to show that same love to a world in need. There is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. I found last year that has stayed with me. He states that: "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
Love is action. Real love moves us beyond ourselves to act on behalf of others. Real love teaches us that there are things more important than what we spend most of our days worrying about. Real love forgives the faults of others. Real love calls us to be aware of the situations in the world which cause others pain, grief, despair and humiliation. Real love challenges us to stand up for what is right, and to speak up when we see wrong being done. Real love seeks peace.
We, as Christians, need to act in such a way that makes those around us say, "Wow! Look at how those Christians love!!" We can do this in many ways, both small and large. We can bring food to someone who is sick or grieving. We can visit those who are homebound. We can adopt a family in need at Christmas, or hold a food drive for an organization like Harvesters Food Pantry (http://www.harvesters.org/). We can host voter registration drives at our churches, or open the doors of our church for organizations like AA to meet. Our church annually helps to sponsor a Habitat for Humanity house (http://www.habitat.org/), providing both money and laborers to build a home for someone in need. Many churches sponsor mission trips both locally and internationally. The United Methodist Church, specifically, has a program called Volunteers in Missions in which thousands of people serve annually (http://www.umvim.org/). My husband and I have, for the past two years, given gifts to our family from Heifer Project International (http://www.heifer.org/), which promotes sustainable living in Third World Countries. We have also become involved with the Nothing But Nets campaign started by sports writer Rick Reilly which provides mosquito nets to people in need throughout malaria-ridden parts of Africa (http://www.nothingbutnets.net/). My husband is working with the senior pastor at his church to do a net drive during March Madness. Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, $10 will get two nets to people whose lives are at risk from disease.
Love is not just warm and fuzzy. Love can change a life. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." (Matthew 9:27) How will you love today?
Blessings and Peace,