Years ago, I saw a commercial promoting a huge stuffed bear as a Valentine’s Day gift that guys could give to their “special someone”. And when I say huge, I mean it was about the same size as the guy carrying it. Seeing the two of them squeeze through the door evoked visions of the “Three Stooges” all trying to get through a doorway at the same time. Some of you may remember that, right?
Gallantry on Display ~
Eventually, the guy got through the door, but he didn’t simply hand the bear over to the woman waiting inside. He presented it as though she was his Guinevere and he was Sir Lancelot just returning from an epic battle wherein he had courageously defended her virtue and saved the kingdom by defeating the evil black knight. It was not enough that her perfumed hankie had been flying from that little pointy thing on top of his helmet. He was about to add even more. For his exemplary heroism, he had been awarded the coveted “Love Bear”. Now, as his supreme gesture of eternal devotion, he was offering it to her. Ahh… What more could possibly be said or done to exemplify and validate such undying love?
Guinevere’s eyes widened, ostensibly to exhibit excitement mingled with shock, incredulity, and passionate gratitude. Suddenly it didn’t matter that Sir Lancelot was normally an insensitive clod who couldn’t remember to wipe his feet or put his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper. The important thing was that he had finally managed to dream up something as romantic and stimulating as having a dust bunny on steroids for her very own.
Inciting a Different Kind of Passion ~
I sat there imagining Diane’s response if I came home dragging a thing like that. She would be passionate, no doubt, but not in the way guys tend to fantasize about. It would be more akin to how she’d react if I came through the door announcing that God was leading me to breed possums and promote them as trendy new service animals. For her, a giant Love Bear would be just slightly less ridiculous.
On the positive side, maybe Lady Guinevere was excited because she was thinking about taking the love bear to bed with her and forcing Sir Lancelot to go sleep somewhere else so she could get some decent rest. Hmmm… I think I’m beginning to see the appeal now. After all, stuffed bears don’t snore, they don’t make other unintelligible noises in the night, they don’t thrash around like an outnumbered Ninja fighting for his life, and they don’t have morning breath that could peel varnish off antique furniture.
Okay, I concede that there probably aren’t a lot of doctrinal issues wrapped up in the trafficking of stuffed animals. But a commercial like that does give us a glimpse of the kinds of bizarre and unusual things we humans do, especially around Valentine’s Day, in an effort to say, “I love you.” Our tendencies in that direction warrant indulging in a simple, but relevant, spiritual observation or two.
Something Is Missing ~
All of us are aware that violence and division are engulfing our nation and the world. The news has become a daily, living proclamation that something vital and irreplaceable is missing. The missing element, in my opinion, is Love – as God defines it. That one concept is possibly the most God-like capacity we were ever equipped with. Love is the most powerful driving force we were ever given, and we are suffering under the impact of the destructive forces that haunt the emotional and spiritual desert left in the wake of its departure.
Love lives in conjunction with other positive capacities, like faith, trust, and hope. Life’s greatest experiences flow out of it. Joy, peace, fulfillment, and optimism attend it, and when love flourishes, it keeps destructive things at bay. Things like fear, anxiety, unprovoked anger, and irrational hatred cannot cohabitate with it. The kind of love that Jesus displayed brings out the best in us. It demands truth, creates compassion, extends forgiveness, practices generosity, and facilitates unity. Perhaps the most powerful element of all is love’s willingness to endure personal sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved. Paul declared that the intent of the Law of God and the core message of the prophets are included within that one concept. Loving God and loving one another encapsulates it all. (Romans 13:8-10)
Considering a Different Perspective ~
Perhaps what we should be most concerned about is not our Valentine’s Day love gifts, but how we express the love we claim to have for the One who loved us first and proved it by giving all He had, including His life. Are our religious rituals really what He’s hoping to receive from us? Are they all He deserves to receive from us? There were times when God said to His people that He was sick of their rituals and sacrifices, and of their long, disingenuous prayers. Luke records an expression of love that will be remembered for eternity, and there are some points worth considering as we think about love this Valentine’s Day.
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:36–39 NKJV)
Enduring Lessons ~
The nameless woman who made her way to Jesus that day had already come to love all she knew about this incredible man who had come to bring forgiveness and healing into their world. She brought nothing but an alabaster box of fragrant oil and a heart broken with sin, but clinging to hope that those sins could be forgiven. She didn’t say a word, but the eloquence of what she did has stirred lives for over 2,000 years. It’s not that she was capable of love that’s more special or powerful than yours or mine. It’s how she expressed it that lives on.
- This was not a place where she would be welcomed. Just being there demanded boldness.
- Her love was a private thing, but she was willing to make it public.
- She didn’t have much, but her love made her willing to give all she had.
- Her love was deeply personal, and so was her contact with Jesus.
- Her love was displayed in a way that neither Jesus nor His critics could miss it.
What she felt during and after those moments with Him are forever hers, but one thing is pretty clear. Both had come to say to the other, See how much I love you? She did that for Him by pouring out the fragrant contents of a broken vial on His head and washing His feet. He did it by pouring out His blood on a cross and washing her clean from every sin she’d ever committed.
Stuffed bears, candy, and flowers are okay, but what America is desperate for is love like that woman brought to Jesus. Our prayer is that all of us will help revive that kind of selfless love this Valentine’s Day.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Love, as God defines it, is possibly the most God-like capacity we were ever equipped with, the most powerful driving force ever given. Destructive forces haunt the emotional and spiritual desert left in the wake of its departure.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Love lives in conjunction with other positive capacities, like faith, trust, and hope. Life’s greatest experiences flow out of it. Joy, peace, fulfillment, and optimism attend it, and when love flourishes, it keeps destructive things at bay.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The kind of love that Jesus displayed brings out the best in us. It demands truth, creates compassion, extends forgiveness, practices generosity, and facilitates unity, and endures personal sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Perhaps we should be most concerned not about our Valentine’s Day love gifts, but how we express the love we claim to have for the One who loved us first and proved it by giving all He had, including His life.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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