Well, it’s February and there is certainly no shortage of things to celebrate this month: Black History Month, Presidents’ Day, and last, but not least, Valentine’s Day.
Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day where we set aside special time for our forever Valentine – maybe a new outfit, maybe a romantic dinner, or maybe just some peace and quiet at home with your beloved.
Or, maybe you’re waiting for your forever Valentine, and so you’ve joined the ranks of the ever popular GALentine’s Day! Maybe a spa day, a shopping day and a loud, rambunctious dinner at your favorite, local spot – some much needed and appreciated gal time.
Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air, friends.
And, listen I want you to know right up front that I am here for ALL of it! I love it when my hubs and I can steal a few hours away together – I don’t care what we’re doing! We can be at Lowe’s shopping for shelving, at a movie sharing popcorn, or at dinner, reconnecting and discussing our lives. And, Valentine’s Day is one of those times for us. We’ve sort of nixed the idea of gifts for Valentine’s Day, and are just thankful for time. Time to remember our first Valentine’s Day, that Valentine’s Day where the cake fell on the floor (true, sad story) and all the others in between. We love to think back over our life together, to discuss how much we’ve grown as individuals and as a couple, and to do a little dreaming for our future. Yep, I love Valentine’s Day with my man.
And, don’t get me started about my gals! Listen, no kidding, I am so thankful for my friends! They are my support system, my sanity and my favorite sitcom, all at the same time! My closest friends have been with me through thick and thin, the good, the bad and the ugly, and are still brave enough to answer the phone when I call. I honestly don’t know where I would be in life without the friends God has placed in my life and, thankfully, I won’t have to find out for a long time.
So, these Valentine’s Day celebrations are all great, but lately, God has been stirring my heart with a different kind of love: love for others. Now, before you nod and zone out, let me be clear: I’m not talking about loving your husband, your kids, your parents, your best friends, or your crazy Aunt Jo, who always brings Orange Fluff to family gatherings. I mean, even people who don’t know God at all love their friends and family. No ma’am, I’m talking about loving the others – you know the ones. The hard ones to love, the ones who get on your proverbial last nerve, the ones who you find strange, the ones you don’t understand.
I don’t know who these people are for you; maybe it’s that crazy neighbor that you see in the grocery store and immediately turn and go the other way. Maybe it’s that coworker that’s on the other side of the political aisle from you, maybe it’s that acquaintance that goes to THAT church, or, God forbid, doesn’t go to church at all. Yep, those people.
God has brought me over the last few weeks to a crowd favorite, I Corinthians 13. Now, here’s a fun fact about I Corinthians 13: even though most of us probably had at least a portion of this chapter read at our weddings, where we were so in love with our soon-to-be spouse that we couldn’t even see straight, this chapter is not about romantic love at all. Nope. The context in which Paul wrote this “love chapter” had nothing to do with the love between a husband and wife, nor was it about loving your family or friends. Believe it or not, Paul wrote I Corinthians 13 to some Christians in Corinth who weren’t loving each other and/or their communities well. Kinda changes the meaning, doesn’t it?
Paul was trying to remind the Corinthians that, for the Believer, love shouldn’t be given or expressed only when others meet your standard of behavior, agree with you on everything or you feel they are worthy of your love – Believers’ love should be given unconditionally. Just like God’s love.
Wait, what? Yeah, I know. It’s tough. But the truth is, love is messy. It doesn’t always make sense and it certainly isn’t at all easy. What Paul was trying to say is this: loving others means dying to yourself – your needs, your wants, your preferences.
Here’s I Corinthians 13:4-8a from my favorite translation:
Love is large and incredibly patient.
Love is gentle and consistently kind to all.
It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else.
Love does not brag about one achievements nor inflate its own importance.
Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor.
Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.
Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong.
Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others.
Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love never stops loving.
Um, ouch. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even love my husband that well sometimes! I mean, that is a crazy kind of love!
Love is a tall order, for sure. So, why is this kind of love important, you ask? Because this is the kind of love that God loves us with. As Paul explained to the Corinthians, it’s our responsibility and sacred honor to represent God well to everyone, but especially to those who don’t know Him yet. God’s love is what changes things – hearts, minds, lives. If we are going to win the world – the lost, the broken, the hurting, the abandoned, the deceived, the confused – we must allow this crazy kind of love – God’s love – to shine like a beacon from our heart to theirs. We have to, there is no other option.
So, how about you? Are you loving the difficult people in your life well? If you’re like me, sometimes yes, other times no. But I Corinthians 13 and Valentine’s Day is always a good reminder. As you celebrate and enjoy each other today, ask God to help you love like He loves. Then, sit back and watch God’s love spread like crazy!