So, how does that story fit into our current culture of love and Valentine’s Day? If you ask a smaller child, you might get the answer that love is a soft puppy. A teen might blush, fidget, and think of the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they think of “that special person.” Ask someone immersed in popular culture and you might hear that love is accepting everyone. But none of these definitions fit the Biblical view of love.
John 15:13 MKJV No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Now THAT is love. Love is sacrifice. Jesus loved us so much that He died for us. (John 3:16) God loved us so much that He sent His Son to be our once and for all sacrifice to free us from sin. (Hebrews 10:10-14)
The neat thing is that God loves us as we are. Period. We don’t have to get cleaned up, we don’t have to get right, we don’t have to do anything but come to Him. That is love and acceptance. He has a big table that is open to ALL!
But it doesn’t stop there. Because He loves us so much, He provides a way of escape from sin. He provides a way to change. 1 John 3:1 MKJV
"Behold what manner of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God. Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him."
Because He loves us He expects us to change!
Remember the story of Lazarus in John 11? Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. Jesus was told to not open the tomb because Lazarus would stink. But what did Jesus do? John 11:39 MKJV
"Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him who died, said to Him, Lord, by this time he stinks. For it is the fourth day."
He opened the tomb and called to Lazarus to come out. That which was dead was now alive! Lazarus came out, all wrapped up in his grave clothes … just the way he was in the tomb without Jesus. (v.44) And Jesus told those who were watching to untie the grave clothes from Lazarus. And there is the change. Jesus was not going to let Lazarus stay as he was, but Lazarus was given new life, and he was to show (demonstrate) this new life with new clothing, a new walk, getting cleaned up, and no longer stinking!
Now, THAT is love! Love to be honest with one another. Honest to say, “you stink and need to be cleaned up!” Love means we don’t wink at sin and let things slide. We don’t let those we love remain dead in sin. We don’t remain dead in sin! The love of the Father is about change and becoming more like Him!
That love that changes us is the same love that walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps 23:4). It is the same love that when we are afraid, we will trust in Him (Ps 56:3). It is the same love that never leaves us or forsakes us (Heb 13:5). Yes, God is love. And we should exhibit that same love. Let’s just make sure it is God’s love, and not the world’s love that we are focusing on. Ephesians 5 makes this clear.
Eph 5:1-11 ERV "You are God's dear children, so try to be like him. (2) Live a life of love. Love others just as Christ loved us. He gave himself for us—a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God. (3) But there must be no sexual sin among you. There must not be any kind of evil or selfishly wanting more and more, because such things are not right for God's holy people. (4) Also, there must be no evil talk among you. Don't say things that are foolish or filthy. These are not for you. But you should be giving thanks to God. (5) You can be sure of this: No one will have a place in the kingdom of Christ and of God if that person commits sexual sins, or does evil things, or is a person who selfishly wants more and more. A greedy person like that is serving a false god. (6) Don't let anyone fool you with words that are not true. God gets very angry when people who don't obey him talk like that. (7) So don't have anything to do with them. (8) In the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. (9) This light produces every kind of goodness, right living, and truth. (10) Try to learn what pleases the Lord. (11) Have no part in the things that people in darkness do, which produce nothing good. Instead, tell everyone how wrong those things are."
Have a Valentine’s Day and month of love. Remember the love of St. Valentine was that he was not going to compromise his faith in God, even if it meant death. Spend time with God, fall in love with Him to the point where you can imitate St. Valentine’s love.
Pastor Art Speck