The weekend before last was Valentine’s day, the day of love. It is a day where we as Americans exchange approximately 180 million Valentine’s day cards and spend approximately 1 billion dollars on candy as a part of the total spending on Valentine’s day gifts overall that is approximately 13 billion dollars. All to celebrate love.
If you were to ask those in our American culture today what “Love” is, you’d probably get a variety of answers. Some might say it is a feeling, others might say it is an ability. Some might say it is a choice while others might say love will happen whether you choose it or not. Others say it is all you need….
This year, rather than waiting for 2 hours to get a poor table at a restaurant (is their a custom of slipping the Maitre d’ some extra Valentine’s day compensation to get a good table that I’m not aware of?), my wife Cory and I were blessed to be up in the mountains with the college-aged Revolve ministry. It was such a blessing to get to be away with many dear brothers and sisters.
Our topic for the weekend was, oddly enough- Love.
However, we weren’t talking about the sappy love between a man and a woman, but rather the highest form of love that the Bible describes.
Our theme verses for the weekend were John 13:34-35 where Jesus begins his extended discourse with His disciples before He is taken and crucified. After Judas leaves the room, Jesus charges His disciples with a new commandment- that they love one another just as He loved them.
And the disciples weren’t left guessing as to what Jesus was referring to when He said to “love.” They had seen how He had lived with them for the past 3 years and had learned who He really was. Later in this discourse with the disciples, Jesus further defines it by saying- “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13). Certainly Jesus had laid down His life for His disciples in His three years of ministry to and with them, but I can’t help but think He is hinting at what was about to come in the next 24 hours- His own death. Jesus had time and again foretold His death to the disciples and all along pointed to that as the most important part of His ministry on earth.
Why did Jesus die? Did He die to pay a penalty for sins? Absolutely. Did He die to conquer death? Absolutely. Did He die for us? Absolutely. But even more than that, 1 Peter 3:18 states, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh…” Christ atoned for sins and conquered death for the purpose of reconciling men to God, to bring them into a right relationship with Him where they would live to enjoy Him above all and glorify Him above all.
If I am to love like Jesus loved, and the cross was the greatest expression of His love, I can’t die for someone’s sins, or conquer death for someone else, but I can be a part of the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-20). The way that you and I can best love others is being a used by God to bring others to Himself. This applies both to sharing the gospel with those that don’t know God but also being used by God as a member of the body of Christ to help others draw nearer to God in their relationship with Him through the gospel. We can’t truly be those that really love others if we haven’t richly experienced that love through the gospel ourselves.
So, if that’s the command that Jesus left with His disciples, are we doing that? How do we love those around us? Is our kind of love the kind that only goes as far to do nice things for others, to serve them occasionally and share mutual interests with them? Does our love go as far as to be used by God to bring others closer to Himself? Do we love others enough to talk about God with them? Do we care about others enough to lovingly correct them when they are sinning against God and choosing other things above Him?
In a world that accepts all the lesser forms of love as the real thing, do we really love one another?