I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic and I love seeing love in the world around me. I love the sight of young couples who are just starting to figure out what it means to love or newlyweds that are navigating the sweet difficulties of starting a life together. I love seeing brand new parents falling in love with their children at first sight or proud parents cheering their kids on from the stands of an athletic event or performance. I love seeing an elderly couple that is still very much in love holding hands or smiling sweetly at one another. I love seeing friends hold each other up through difficult times and grandparents spoiling grandchildren they love so dearly. I could give hundreds of examples of love and we could quote thousands of songs written about it. Love is very hard to define, but when you feel it, you are absolutely certain of what it is.
The word love is also thrown around pretty often. I love the Tennessee Vols. I love chocolate. I love sunrises and sunsets. I love Sunday afternoon naps. I love Fall and Spring, but mostly Summer. (Winter does not get my love). I love romantic comedies and Hallmark movies. I love uplifting podcasts. I love live sporting events. I could go on and on. But is the love I feel for my husband and children the same love I feel for chocolate? (Maybe that’s not the best example, because I really do LOVE chocolate….lol!)
In the Gospel of John we are told, “If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” (John 4:20-21 Message) Furthermore we are told that God not only loves, but that God IS love. He does nothing apart from His love and we are to love because He first loved us.
So what does it mean to love one another? Is that like love for chocolate or do I love everyone the way I love my husband?
There are four distinct types of love in Scripture – Eros (the romantic love between a husband and wife), Storge (family love – like that of a sibling or parent/child), Agape (the unconditional perfect love of God) and Phileo (brotherly love between friends or community). It is only because of Agape love that we have any ability to love others in the way we are told in what Jesus described as the second, equally important part of the greatest commandment. "Love God and love others."
During the Superbowl this year, as it often does, Coca-Cola ran a commercial with an emphasis on bringing us as all together. I thought it was a wonderful message and kudos to the corporation for spreading a message of love to such a broad audience. Take a look.
As much as I wish it was the church getting recognition for spreading this message rather than a soft drink company, and that the center of the message was God's love for all rather than a Coke for everyone, it does serve as a visual example of what I believe it means when God says “love one another”. He doesn't see our differences. We all have equal footing at the cross. It takes me back to a simple song many of us learned as children in Sunday School.
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
As we consider Valentine’s Day this week and look for ways to tell those in our lives how much we love them, I challenge you to also show love to someone who it may take a little more effort to love. Maybe it’s a co-worker or a competitor. Maybe it’s a family member or a neighbor who is particularly difficult. Maybe it’s someone who has hurt you or has hurt someone you love. Maybe it's someone who believes very differently from you or who falls on a different side of the political aisle. Or maybe it’s just someone you don’t know particularly well but who looks so different from you that you can’t imagine loving him or her. The good news is that we don’t have to love on our own. We love from the overflow of His love. We love because He FIRST loved us. We can love because of Agape love.
I also encourage you to reach out and tell someone how much they mean to you if you haven’t in a while. We don’t have to wait for February or Valentine’s Day to express how much we love someone, but it’s a great time to do so when “love is in the air.” Life is short and time is precious, so don’t ever put off telling someone what they mean to you if God is prompting you to do so.
In the last few days my heart has been so full as I have scrolled through my social media feeds to see many celebrations of engagements, marriages, new babies, babies on the way and new believers expressing their love for Jesus in Baptism. In a world that often feels like it’s full of nothing but hate, I want to be sure to celebrate the love. To show my age and quote Captain and Tenille from the 70’s, I believe that “Love will keep us together.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!!!