love, love, love

Happy Valentine’s Day!! I’ve never thought of Valentine’s Day as a “real” holiday, though I definitely never turn down a chance for heart shaped chocolates. It’s a day to celebrate love, and love is valuable.

Since we’ve been talking about self-interest, I want to talk about what happens to love and relationships when we let our own self-centeredness take priority. Two things tend to happen — a) we think that the world owes us, creating a sense of entitlement that does not belong to us and b) we become void of love and community. We create our own breeding grounds for bitterness and resentment. We criticize others to feel good about ourselves and we exclude others to feel exclusive ourselves. In Romans, Paul says,

“Live together in peace with each other. Don’t be proud, but be willing to be friends with people who are not important to others. Don’t think of yourself as smarter than everyone else.” (12:16)

Be willing to be friends with people who are not important to others.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been on one side or another of exclusion. I have had my share of being excluded and excluding others, and my previous actions break my heart now that I see how damaging it is. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we have or who we know or what we look like here on earth, for our purpose is eternal. In fact, we should count the things we hold so dearly on earth as loss in order to fully embrace the worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). It’s easy for us to assume and cast judgment on other people, but that is not what Christ was about. So, the next time you find yourself writing someone off based on looks or social status or assumption, remember that none of us are perfect, and Christ died for that person just as much as he died for you.

God has given me a heart for loving people. My continual prayer for myself is to love with open arms the way that Jesus does; to learn to accept and celebrate the differences in people, and I encourage you to ask for that, too. Our first calling in life is to love the God, but the second most important commandment is to love others.

Don’t think of yourself as smarter than everyone else.

In other words, Paul is warning us to not think of ourselves as better than others. When we do, we start to think that the world owes us. We think we deserve its attention and its acceptance, its glory and its recognition. In time, we become bitter when we don’t get those things, and we lose heart because we think we need them. Bottom line, though, we have to realize that we don’t need them.

We are to live in the world, but not of the world. Our recognition and acceptance come from Jesus, and we always have it. We never have to worry about earning or losing them, because He already paid the price for them. I know that it isn’t easy. The ways of the world (criticism, judgment, exclusion, pride) are much easier to give into, but we have called for more. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and it is way past time for us to act like it.

So, whether you have a date tonight or not; whether you are married or single or together or alone, remember that earthly love we give to each other is only a reflection of Christ’s love, and it doesn’t compare to the love given to us by our heavenly father. Fill the world with that reflection; love those who do not deserve it, and always put others before yourself. We didn’t earn the love of Christ, so others most certainly don’t need to earn our love.

The world doesn’t owe us a thing, but we do owe the world Christ’s love.

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