I love Valentine’s Day!

valentineI mentioned the approach of Valentine’s Day to several friends last week, each reacting somewhat differently.  A couple scoffed, “a day to increase the profit of card companies and florists.” Another wondered what was an appropriate gift for his relationship. Another showed me a small gift ordered in advance of the day.  I always loved Valentine’s Day when I always brought red roses to my lovely, delighted by the sparkle in her eyes when I told her for the 10,000th time that I loved her!

Love is in terribly short supply in our world and so we need to celebrate it. I understand that roses, dinners, and jewelry cannot compensate for kindness, concern, and deep emotional connection.  I do understand why some that the celebration, as we know it, is somewhat silly. And yet, we Christians are called to be people who love, so why not a day to make us think about it?

In his book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark includes a chapter about the way that Christians reacted to the epidemics and plagues that decimated populations in the age before antibiotics and medical systems.  He quotes Dionysius who wrote of the heroic efforts of Christians to care for the sick. “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves … heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending their every need and ministering to them in Christ … Many, in nursing and caring for others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.  … The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of disease they pushed the sufferers away and fled their dearest, throwing them in the road before they had died and treating their corpses as dirt.”  Stark goes on to point out that death rates among Christians were less than half that of those who were not, primarily because Christians provided nourishment and care that allowed the sick among them to recover!  Such is the love Jesus taught.

Is it to be found among us today?
Is our Gospel validated, as theirs was, by our selflessness, our willingness to die in serving others?

I find it tragic and horrifying that so many Christians have joined the politics of hate and exclusion in our time.  It is beyond my comprehension to think that Jesus would want us to join those who loudly shout  “America first” or vote to have our vast armies sent abroad to protect our economic interests. Our internal social problems are deep and complex, but we will never find them solved as long as Christians isolate themselves in suburban neighborhoods in beautiful buildings. We must not only speak of love, we must live it. That includes adoption of orphans, supporting centers that help women with crisis pregnancies, befriending our Muslim neighbors, condemning race rhetoric that demonizes others, and mowing our sick neighbor’s lawn!

Those early Christians did not decide who was ‘moral’ enough, ‘pure’ enough, or ‘orthodox’ enough to be cared for in Jesus’ Name.  Somehow they managed to love and let God take care of the sins of their world.  And, their numbers increased so rapidly that within 3 centuries they were making a measurable difference in the Roman Empire.

Let’s take advantage of this day of love to examine our own hearts, to ask ourselves if we are loving like Jesus. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28, NLT)

Here is a word from the Word for this Valentine’s Day.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, 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.
Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters… Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:16,18, NLT)

Happy Valentine’s Day.

_____________________

Your Love Is Extravagant

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship is intimate
I find I’m moving to the rhythms of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating
In our secret place
Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ
Is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known
You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again

Your love is extravagant
Your love is extravagant
Your love is extravagant

Darrell Evans © 1998 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI)) CCLI License # 810055

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