In most years, February is probably my least favorite month. It’s a bit early to judge this one yet, but February usually brings challenges we could do without. For instance, before we can manage to pause long enough to be appropriately grateful to God that we made it through January, we get subjected to “Punxsutawney Phil,” an opinionated rodent purported to be both meteorologically and prophetically gifted. He pokes his nose out of a hole somewhere in the Pennsylvania landscape and is immediately rewarded with the kind of national attention that struggling artists and spotlight-craving politicians can only dream about. Then, with no verifiable scientific support, and with a touch of arrogant condescension reflective of today’s mainstream news anchors, he summarily condemns us to six more weeks of horrible weather. Wonderful. With media instincts like that, he might as well do their political commentary while he’s at it.
Just the Beginning ~
But having the “Varmint in Chief” ruin our weather outlook is just the beginning of the burdens that February brings. At a time when most of us guys are sick of winter and feeling about as romantically inclined as an in-bred warthog with a briar stuck in a place he can’t reach, the malicious month strikes again. Thousands of heart-shaped reminders assail us from every direction, warning us that it’s the “love month”. Another Valentine’s Day is imminent, and we have little time to prepare.
Every year, marketers try to convince ordinary guys like me that if we just purchase their magical love-enhancing gadget, garment, gizmo, or gourmet delight, it will be like Cupid traded in his puny little bow and arrow for Thor’s hammer, and smacked the love of our life right up-side the head with it. She won’t know what hit her. She’ll think that our one tiny molecule of spontaneous romantic creativity that hasn’t been seen since the last solar eclipse suddenly metastasized. When she looks at us this Valentine’s Day, she’ll see a living composite of every handsome leading dude in a love story she ever swooned over, and she’ll envision living out every romantic plot ever presented in a Hallmark movie–both of them. She’ll be so mesmerized and enchanted that she’ll think the pupils in our eyes have started to morph into the shape of little hearts. Oh, and just to be safe, we should keep our cell phones handy when we present our grand Valentine’s Day love doodad. If even a small part of its potential emotional impact was to hit her all at once, a 911 call may be needed.
Trivializing Treasures ~
I don’t mean to be overly sarcastic, but it’s exasperating to see how today’s culture demeans and trivializes spiritual events and concepts. Things that have incredible potential for helping to heal a deeply wounded nation are belittled and stripped of their power. Love is one of one of the most vital and powerful of those issues, and Valentine’s Day is a prime example of what a narcissistic, superficial, self-indulgent culture addicted to pleasure does with it.
We shouldn’t be surprised, though, given the success that secularism has had in promoting all kinds of replacements for spiritual realities in this country. Love is just another example. God’s incredible gift has been reduced to little more than an empty euphemism. The term that is descriptive of the very heart of God is used to describe, and/or validate and defend, every kind of socially toxic and personally destructive relationship and behavior imaginable. It’s the world’s modus operandi at work. The real message of Christmas itself has been buried under a mountain of incomprehensibly irrational fantasy, and the message of hope inherent in Jesus’ resurrection has been totally obliterated and replaced by a ridiculous, convoluted tale involving rabbits, eggs, and free sugary treats. While all the carbs in the candy may at least offer some calories, the world’s fictional reinterpretations offer nothing. As is true in every case, the lies and pointless stories swallowed by deceived people who are hungry for something to believe are as impotent and lifeless as their inflated lawn ornaments, paper hearts, and the plastic grass in their Easter baskets.
A Revealing Confrontation ~
But as challenging as the love month can sometimes be, it might be a good time to push back a bit against the seductive influence of the world around us. Let’s begin by pausing for a minute to do a couple of things. First, let’s look at a brief confrontation Jesus had with His perennial opponents, the Pharisees, and consider what He said to them (and to the rest of us) about love. Then, imagine for a minute what the incredible implications are if what Jesus said about love is actually true (because it is, and will forever be). Finally, let’s begin to ponder what we’re going to do about it. Here’s the exchange:
But when the Pharisees heard that He [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:34–40 NKJV)
According to Jesus, who is the eternal embodiment of Truth, the entire spectrum of God’s commandments, ordinances, and procedural requirements can be wrapped within a twofold application of one principle. Love is the single operational motivation guiding every ordinance God gave to govern human attitudes and behaviors. Beyond that, Jesus also revealed that love is the ultimate basis for all the judgments, revelations, and proclamations uttered by His prophets. From God’s perspective, which is the only authoritative perspective that exists, love is not just a transient state of emotional euphoria. Love is more than what we feel . . . love is what we do. Like the law itself, love is a gift God gave to ensure that we might live in peace and harmony with one another and to counteract the fear and anxiety that chaos and anarchy always generate.
A Gift with More Potential ~
We’ve entered another “love month” in the midst of many personal and national uncertainties. Given the power and potential that Jesus ascribed to that singular principle, maybe we should give love, as God defines it, more focused attention. As another Valentine’s Day approaches, maybe the greatest gift we could give those we love, and those we haven’t loved yet, is to expand and explore the range of what that term really means.
We’ll explore love more as the month unfolds, but for the moment, consider this final thought . . . God has done, and will continue to sovereignly do, incredible things for us; i.e., on our behalf. Obviously, He sent his Son to die for us, and He will do many other wonderful things without our help. He will intercede for us, and if we stray, He will search for us and bring us home. Sometimes, He will fight our battles for us. When we’re weak, He’ll provide strength for us and when we’re in the darkness, He’ll provide light for us. But there’s at least one thing God will never do for us. He will never love “for” us. He gave us the capacity to love and commanded us to extend its benefits to others, but who we love, how we love, and whether we love is forever left up to us. Since we have this gift and will answer for what we did or did not do with it, let’s take a fresh look at how we can apply it. God equipped us to counter a hate-filled, angry world with something that rage can’t overcome, money can’t buy, and the censors can’t silence … the gift of love as God intended it to be.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “God’s incredible gift of love, descriptive of His very heart, has been reduced to little more than a euphemism that describes, validates & defends every kind of socially toxic & personally destructive relationship & behavior imaginable.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Love is the single operational motivation guiding every ordinance God gave to govern human attitudes & behaviors. Jesus revealed that love is the ultimate basis for all the judgments, revelations and proclamations uttered by His prophets.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Love is more than what we feel … love is what we do. Love is a gift God gave to ensure that we might live in peace and harmony with one another and to counteract the fear and anxiety that chaos and anarchy always generate.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “There’s at least one thing God will never do for us. He will never love “for” us. He gave us the capacity to love & commanded us to extend its benefits to others, but who we love, how we love, & whether we love is forever left up to us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God equipped us to counter a hate-filled, angry world with something that rage can’t overcome, money can’t buy, and the censors can’t silence … the gift of love as God intended it to be.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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