As the world celebrates Valentine's Day and all things love...I sit and reflect on the great Lover Himself. How the God-man became flesh and dwelt among us, felt what we feel, saw what we see, hurt as we hurt, so that He might identify with us in our struggles and one day walk the way of suffering to Calvary for our sins.
I ponder that as human beings we understand so little about love. Because we do not understand the Lover as we ought. He is the pattern by which we learn how to love. If He did not give us the grace to treat ourselves and others rightly, the wars, murders, and brutality we hear about would be even more rampant. It is only His hand of mercy and his daily-given grace that restrains us and somehow holds this broken world together. Were we to truly grasp how terrible the sinful hearts of mankind are, we would marvel that the God of the Universe would choose to still die to grant them eternal hope. Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, didn't come to give his life for the good people. That might make some sense. No...He came to give His life for those who were lost, those who were sick, those who were broken and needed life. He knows there are no innately "good people" because He knows we have no desire in and of ourselves to love Him or do the right thing. We are selfish; we are hopeless. We have no chance at being anything worthwhile apart from Him. And that's exactly why He came.
My Master came to teach me how to live and love rightly. His Word shows me that I cannot love my neighbor or my friend or my family as I should if I do not understand how He loves me. If I cannot, in a small way, comprehend the love of God toward me, I have no context on which to base my actions toward others. The sacrifice of the Savior on the cross shows me that laying down my desires and wants is a necessary part of love. The unending patience He shows me everyday reveals to me that giving grace to others is yet another way to love. The simple fact that Jesus continues to seek a relationship with me when I fail Him all the time is evidence that long-suffering and faithfulness is key to being a conduit of His love to others.
When I compare His pattern to that of the human concept of love, I find myself coming up short. Human beings can look for "love" simply to fulfill their own desires and wants, not understanding that giving yourself up for another is the way to truly love. Even in the relationships with those we care about most, we can often find ourselves trying to get something from them that we want instead of seeking out how we can deny ourselves and look out for them. Perhaps this Valentine's Day thing isn't all the commercial market makes it out to be. Just maybe our definition of love needs some refining if our relationships with others are to be truly fruitful. Maybe coming back to the heart of God is the secret to understanding what love means...
The Gospel is about learning to come to the end of yourself, to lose in order to live. It is the opposite pattern from what we are born knowing. We are not taught to be selfish, we just come that way. Because our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned in the garden, we are now inheritors of their shame and emotional nakedness, their fear of God's presence, and their selfish ways. Unless God shows us another way, we are bound to operate from our own wants. He must enable us, through grace, to re-order our loves. To re-define what love actually means in light of how He lived the perfect life for our emulation. While we will never achieve true Christ-like love this side of Heaven, I think it's time we take a humbler way and learn what loving others God's way looks like.
Today, whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married...may you look to Jesus as your pattern of love. May you pray for guidance to see others as Jesus sees them, to learn what it means in a deeper way to give yourself up for them. May you seek to learn more about the indescribably awesome love of God and thus be transformed to be a conduit of that love to those around you.