Pastoral ponderings (FEb)
Because of Valentine’s Day, the month of February is often referred to as "the month of love."
I propose we refer to it as "the month of God." After all, “God is love!” (1 John 4; verses 8 & 16)
And along those lines - if we are God’s people, then we should be "people of love." Does that mean we should be giving chocolates, and roses, and candy hearts with cute little sayings on them to everyone we know and meet? That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it’s not what I had in mind. That is the world’s perception of love – it’s all about romance, and sensuality, and sexuality. God’s perception of love is filled with ideas about giving, serving, helping, sacrificing, sharing, and bringing true and lasting joy – not through something temporary like chocolates, roses, and candy hearts; but through a gift that is eternal. That gift, of course, is the gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
You ask: “How shall we, as God’s people, share love this month (and every month)?" The answer is simple. We share Jesus with everyone we know and meet, and we emulate Jesus for them as well. What is Jesus like? Just look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.”
Since God is love, and Jesus is God, then: ‘Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.’
Now replace Jesus’ name in that passage with your name, and you will understand what Valentine’s Day, the month of February, and every month of every year should be like for you as followers of Jesus. We are to be the very embodiment of God’s love. We are to be Jesus to others.
That has never been an easy task – especially in the early days of Christianity, when so much suspicion and anger was directed at the followers of Jesus, and when so many were martyred because of their faith. But even as the second century of Christianity began to unfold, the faith had spread widely throughout the Roman Empire. In the light of wild rumors about what Christians actually taught and did in their meetings together, a church leader named Tertullian wrote an explanation of Christian practices and a critique of the unjust accusations that had been made against them. In his work, he wrote at one point that these attacks against Christianity were made out of jealousy, because Christians displayed a character of life that their pagan neighbors did not possess. Tertullian wrote: “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See how they love one another, they say, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred; how they are ready even to die for one another, they say, for they themselves will sooner put to death.” (Apologeticus, chapter 39)
In a world in which love is so misunderstood – where love is equated with romance and sex (between virtually any two or more people) – may we, as people of love, stand out as being different from the people of the world. May we be counted among those who practice disciplined living for the sake of Christ in a world that neither understands us nor welcomes our "strange" and "old-fashioned" ways. May we be obedient to Jesus’ command as he says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Even today, may the world look at us and say: "See how they love each other." And may our example of God’s true love draw others to Jesus!
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