It is a special day in American life. The day includes beautiful cards with heart-warming lyrics, rich candies smothered in plenty of chocolate, beautiful flowers all carefully arranged, and soft-light dinners in a favorite restaurant. Add to that an exchange of gifts and Cupid will be shooting arrows in every direction, yet seemingly always hitting the heart.
I want to suggest that a day centered on love provides an opportunity to look again at Jesus’ understanding and teaching about the concept of love. A careful review will reveal that the highest level of love, agape love, is built upon the foundational qualities exhibited in the love of family and friends.
Jesus said, “the greatest love that a man has for his friends is to give his life for them.” John 15:13 (TEV). Yet agape love is a step beyond the best experiences of love found within families and friends. “For God so loved the world” covers every corner of the landscape including some who may appear not to be so friendly at all.
Again, note the words of Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your friends and hate your enemies. But now I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you, so that you will become sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes the sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong.
Why should you expect God to reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect – just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Matt. 5:43-48 (TEV).
Agape love is the most challenging demand of the Gospel. It is really difficult. It is much easier to deliver an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But it will not fit what Jesus has to say, 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Matt. 5, (NIV).
As with the game of basketball, one does not change the height of the goal. You just keep on shooting.
May this Valentine’s Day be a springboard to a better understanding the love of God.