Love Beyond Words

Friday, February 13, 2015

    Valentine’s Day has been around for centuries, and, according to the History Channel, is the second most popular card-sending Holiday after Christmas. On this day couples all over the world celebrate with fancy dinners, chocolate, and expensive bouquets because they love each other. Merriam-Webster defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for one another.” Love is arguably the most popular theme of books and movies today. When the world thinks of love, they likely think of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember, or the yearly Hallmark Channel movies centered on romance. How is love defined, though? Can it really be put into words?

            John tells us the definition of love in 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”

            One thing I’ve noticed about books and movies depicting love is this: it is always conditional. In nearly every Hallmark movie, there’s always something that makes the featured couple mad at each other and tired of each other. At some point in the movie, the couple stops loving each other. Of course, all is fine and good by the end, because what’s a Hallmark movie without a happy ending?

            God’s love, though, is never conditional. Paul writes in Ephesians 2: 3b-5, “We were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” There is only one thing that can make a holy, perfect, stainless, spotless, unblemished God want to sacrifice His only holy, perfect, stainless, spotless, unblemished lamb for a people that constantly reject, despise, and rebel against Him: love, a holy, perfect, unconditional love that surpasses all understanding. He loves us with a zealous, constant love that cannot be topped.

            Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Wait? Did I type that right? Did Jesus just call us His friends? Me, a sinner with a rebellious spirit, Jesus’s friend? 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” Not only are we Jesus’s friends, we are God’s children. What and encouragement!  It’s amazing what love can do.

            God has opened up my eyes to see the evidences of His love everywhere. When I look around the dinner table and see the wonderful family God has blessed me with, I see love. When I sit with my Young Life small group every Friday as we share our ups and downs and laugh together, I see love. When I watch the sun rise and set, I am overwhelmed with God’s deep love for His children. When I look through the lens of my camera and see the beauty of God’s wonderful earth, there is nothing but love.

            But what happens when the Word Trade Centers are attacked and war starts? What happens when Christians are burned at the stake for what they believe? Where is God then? This might sound cliché, but Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

             Psalm 119:67-68 says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word. You are good, and what You do is good: teach me Your decrees.”

I like to think of it this way: when a parent spoils their children, always giving them what they want and granting their every wish, what happens when they go off on their own? They are greedy and unequipped to function in everyday life. What we go through is so we become more dependent on the One who saved our souls. God is equipping us to live and serve with zealousness and excitement, totally dependent upon Him.

What is our response to this love? Jesus answers this question in Luke 10:27: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all you mind, and love your neighbor and yourself.”

Loving is a struggle sometimes. When someone wrongs us, it’s hard to love them. Or even when we’re just tired, it’s hard to love. Luckily, God gives us a guide on how love should be in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.”

This Valentine’s Day, rejoice in the unfailing, unstoppable, patient, perfect love of Christ. I leave you with these encouraging words from Ephesian 3:17b-19: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power together with all of the Lord’s people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of with all of the fullness of God.”

Happy (early) Valentine’s Day, readers! I love all of you!