John 13:34-35 (Message)
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
There is a story of a man who went into a little flower shop on Valentine’s Day. He placed an order for four sets of flowers and candy. The clerk’s eyes quickly caught a glimpse of his wedding band and instantly judged the man for his obvious lack of commitment. He noticed her disdain as she filled his order and felt the need to explain. He said, “You know the one set of these flowers is for my mother. My father is gone but left a legacy of love that I am continuing today. One is for my wife who has taught me how to love deeply and completely. The third is for our daughter so that she will know what it means to be loved and never settle for anything less. And this is for you! So that you will know that there are people out there who will love you wanting nothing in return.”
As I began reading the account, it was obvious it was headed for a plot twist, but it also made me think of the stages of love in our life. We glean the concept of love from our parents. My parents divorced when I was very young, but my grandparents were together more than seventy years. It seems that the history of love has changed over the years. Saw a picture on Facebook of an elderly couple wrapped in a warm embrace, the caption read that in our time you fix broken things, you don’t throw them away and get something new. As we become adults, it is our nature as human beings to find a partner. God gave us this desire. However, so many people begin this pursuit broken that rather than being prepared to give love – they are looking for fulfillment that a mere human cannot offer. When we do find a companion, lover and spouse love builds a new life. No one gets married intent on divorce. Children are the product of the love and connection. It is our job as parents to show our children what love is and what it is not. These are all things that most people strive for in life. But what about loving others. Why is it so difficult to love and give our lives to others? Jesus called it a “new” commandment! I think this applies today. “In the same way that I loved you, you love one another. This is what makes us followers of Christ. Not beating people up with the Bible, or telling them what needs to change, what to watch, not to watch, how to live and breathe. The Gospel is the Good News that no matter how far we have fallen, no matter what we have done that Jesus Christ died for us and the Love of God is available to us. End of story…beginning of life.
Matthew 24:6-12 (NLT)
And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.
The world in which we live does not promote true love. Matthew 24 is happening right now. Nation against nation. Earthquakes. Famine. Christians are being arrested, persecuted and killed around the world. People hate each other. Sin is most definitely rampant. All of this because love has grown cold. Love is a commitment. It requires trust. Love has to come from somewhere. Without seeds of love being replanted, it will not grow or multiply. But what is the source, where does it come from, how do we find it and fulfill the Lord’s mandate to love. You cannot make yourself love people. You will tolerate them but without a source of love to draw from that is as good as it gets. Marriage cannot survive without unconditional love. People are not wired that way – we must again find a reservoir to fill the empty voids that human love cannot. The problem is not the world we live in. It is the lack of love inside us that poses the greatest challenge in our life. We have to find love to make love.
John 3:16-17 (Message)
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”
“Love came down and rescued me. Love came down and set me free.” Sometimes we forget that Jesus didn’t come down to take over our life but simply to show us how much God loves us and wants us to be with Him. We all want to be desired by another. He did not come to “point an accusing finger at us” or tell us how bad our life is. He came to show us a brand new life of love and wholeness. We are all broken. It is in that brokenness that people accept a lower standard for our life. God’s Love completes us. When we decide that all the Lord wants is for us to experience His Love and grow deep roots of commitment by faith in His Love, we learn to love others better.
I Corinthians 13:1-3 (Message)
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
The difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus is love. Maybe you are thinking, well obviously. The sad reality is that people spend more time thinking about their relationship to others and even things more than they focus on loving the Lord. See loving Jesus is different than loving anything else because He requires nothing from us. We can give nothing to the Lord that He desires other than our love. We attempt to approach the Throne of God through righteousness and faith but these things without love means nothing. We must be convinced of God’s Love and convicted by it. A conviction is a fixed or firm belief. It means that we are convinced. Too often we are more convicted by our sin. This nullifies our faith. This is not an easy thing to understand because our mind is filled with doubt about love in general thanks to the world in which we live. But the Lord is speaking to our hearts this Valentine’s Day – He is whispering His Love to us. He wants nothing more than to fill us with His Love so that it will overflow as the Gospel to those we live with and live among.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 (Message)
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.
This is love. But before we can adopt this manifesto of love for our own life as we love others, we must first accept that Jesus Christ loves us just this way. He never gives up on us even the hundreds of times we have given up on faith in Him. He obviously cares for others more than Himself evidenced by the Cross. Jesus does not force Himself on others or push His Way into the life of those who do not desire Him. He waits for us to call. Jesus is humble. He doesn’t always say “me” first. Love puts Him there. See we look at the Word of God sometimes and forget that it is a covenant between the Lord and His People. It means that everything He requires of us that He has already committed to doing the same. The Love of God is a partnership that fills every void left by sin. It builds us up rather than tearing us down. God’s always wants the very best for us. His Love will not allow Him to make us do anything that we do not want to do even it means watching us settle for less or fall flat on our face. His Love is the freedom to choose. His Love is complete. It is unconditional. It is different than any other love that you or I will ever experience with a human being even those we hold most dear. We cannot reflect or emulate something we have not experienced or encountered firsthand.
I John 4:17-19 (Message)
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
God is love. We cannot sow a seed that we do not have. We can believe in the Lord without accepting His Love. The demons do. Today we honor the idea of love. The candy companies and greeting card manufacturers capitalize on it every year. We want love. Everyone is looking for love. But until we discover the Love of God, it will never be enough to satisfy our soul so we are free to love others completely and unconditionally. It is a new commandment. It is not found in this world. It is up to us to discover the Love of God and live in it. Fear of being hurt dissipates in this place. Old wounds are finally healed. Scars are smoothed into meaningless marks that will not hold us back any longer from giving our love away without fear that it will not be reciprocated. Our love will flow from the inside out. You will never be without love again with or without people loving us back. We will love simply because we cannot contain the overflowing Love of God rushing through our life. Marriages will become strong. Families bound together. Meaningless disputes will end. Friendships renewed and rekindled. Enemies will disappear as love covers a multitude of sins. This is love. This is God in us working His Way into the world.
John 15:11-14 (NLT)
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.