KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Valentine’s Day brings back some strange childhood memories for me.
I’m especially haunted by the fact that after signing my batch of Valentines the night before the classroom exchange I would invariably inscribe some with “form Jimmy.” I hated that. I knew the difference between “form” and “from,” but my hand seemed destined to make this mistake at least some of the time. This was alright if the card went to someone with “cooties,” but heart-wrenching if it went to some of my favorite people.
We all know that Valentine’s Day is more likely designed by the card manufacturers than by God. There’s nothing in the Bible about such an event. But it doesn’t hurt to think about love on a cold February day. After all, it’s part of the definition of God Himself.
Here is the way Jesus laid it out. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). But why is the commandment called new?
The initial standard of love for others was based on our love for ourselves — “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But here Jesus ups the standard and makes Himself the measure of love — and this is brand new. Our love for ourselves is uneven, incomplete and sometimes distorted. But Jesus’ love for people is pure, sacrificial and unconditional. There is no higher standard to be found.
Throughout the New Testament, then, you find this standard placarded before us. We are to forgive as Christ forgave, bear burdens like Christ did, give as Christ gave, accept others as Christ accepts us.
For instance, Paul said, “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
It might help to place in front of your mind that person who is most disagreeable to you — that cantankerous, obnoxious, or overbearing person, or maybe that person who gets all the breaks, all the attention.
Do you accept that person like Christ accepts you? Is it possible? The source for that love is the Spirit within us. But the way that love begins to show up in the believer often corresponds to our perspective on His acceptance of us.
We are professional sinners, committing thousands of sins in our lives, so what right should we have to reject someone else? And the fact that we really know better makes our sins even more grievous. But Christ accepts us unconditionally. Can we really shun someone else when we’re thinking about that amazing fact?
Love doesn’t mean that you like everyone equally, that you spend the same amount of time with everyone or that you give in to everybody’s desires.
Love is deeper than “like.” But you must not shun the difficult people. You must not be exclusive in spirit. You must welcome the difficult people from your heart as much as Christ welcomes you. You must be ready and inclusive when God brings them to you.
A friend of mine was the chaplain for the University of Arkansas football team. He serves as pastor of a church that has attracted many college students. Years ago on the practice field — at the very time he was talking with a player about Christ — up walked a man named Tommy. “Hiiiiiii, Pastor!” Tommy blurted out. Tommy was one of those people who was too loud and always had wrong timing. He was a slow learner. And he became a real irritation to this pastor.
When considering this nagging problem, God brought this potent thought to this pastor’s mind: “Remember, you are my Tommy.”
He got the message. Do you?
Christ accepts His family without condition. He did not accept us because we are something special. He accepted us in the same way we are to accept others, cooties and all.
And Valentine’s Day — whether it is in the Bible or not — is as good a starting place for that kind of love as any other day.
Jim Elliff if president of Christian Communicators Worldwide in Kansas City, Mo. Read more of Jim’s articles on www.CCWonline.org. For a free downloadable bulletin insert/handout of this article, see www.BulletinInserts.org.