As Valentine’s Day draws near, the youth group of our church is preparing a service about “love” in order to celebrate the occasion. Many people are preparing to celebrate Valentine’s Day but I wonder how many of them will truly be able to experience “love” during this celebration. Last year for Valentine’s Day I wrote an article entitled “Celebrate Valentine’s Day correctly” where I was able to explain the origins of the celebration and how to celebrate according to God’s will. That article has been the most popular article of the year on my blog. This year I want to look at what Jesus Christ teaches about “love” and learn some practical insights about demonstrating “love” not only during the Valentine’s Day celebration but on a daily basis. As we will see, “love” is not an occasional sentiment that we show at special times but instead, it is a way of life that we must live everyday, especially if we consider ourselves Christians.
Many times a complaint that people have (both inside and outside of the church) is that we do not “love” enough. Many of our problems would easily be resolved if we would just “love” more. My question is, “what does that look like, or in other words, how do I love more? Do I just close my eyes and think warm gushy thoughts or are there some concrete actions to take?” Jesus helps explain in His teachings on love, specifically how to love more, or in other words, what actions to take in order to demonstrate your love. I believe this is what people really mean when they say “we need to love more”. In the greatest sermon ever preached, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains in a practical way how to demonstrate love to others. Here is what He taught:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you, so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat 5:43-45)
(1) First and foremost, if want to be able to love others and demonstrate that love in practical ways, then you must first love God, or in other words, you must first have a personal relationship with God so that you can view others the way that He does and you can love others the way that He does. Unlike God, we as people are all born very selfish. This idea is easy to recognize if you have children or if you have worked much with children. You do not have to teach children to be selfish. They come pre-programmed with that accessory. Instead, you have to teach them not to be selfish, to think of the needs of others and not just their own personal wants and needs. This is a difficult process and takes a lifetime to achieve. Even with age and maturity though, we as people are naturally going to be selfish. When we begin and maintain a personal relationship with God, He then gives us the ability to be selfless, His character trait. When we have this character trait, borrowed from Him, then we are able to love others, even the “unlovable” in the eyes of the world. Once you have received and experienced the love of God then the natural outflow of that is to love others.
(2) In order to love others correctly, you must not have the mindset of the majority of people. As I have written, the majority of people are selfish, and that is manifested in the fact that they “love” those who “love” them. In other words, if you treat me correctly and please me then I will reward you by “loving” you. This is very selfish and conditional. As long as you please me then I will love you but if you do not please me then I will no longer love you. I believe that many of the marriages in the world today have this type of “selfish” love at their foundation because the divorce rate is so high. As long as you please me, we will stay married, but when you stop pleasing me, we divorce. People do not put it into such words but the results show the feeling.
(3) God teaches us to love others and show love to them even if they view us as enemies. We can show our love to them by blessing them (nice words for your enemy are not a natural character trait). We do good things for them, meeting their needs when we can and the most important is to pray for them (for opportunities to meet their needs). Why do we do this? We do it because this is the way God works and we live according to His standards and we have His character. This is the result of being a child of God or Christian. Do you love others the way that God does? Do you consider yourself a Christian yet you do not demonstrate (live out) the character traits of God? If you really want to rejoice during the Valentine season (and always) then you need to begin a personal relationship with God so that you can love others the way that He does.
Christ’s teachings get even more practical. Once a young man came to Jesus and asked “what must I do to inherit the kingdom of heaven?” (in other words, he wanted to know what being a child of God looks like, a genuine Christian) Here is Jesus’ response for the young man (and for you and me as well):
He said to Him, Which? Jesus said, You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mat 19:18-19)
With this list given by Jesus (some of the 10 commandments, the 6 that deal with how you treat others) we can see how to love people in a practical way.
(1) The question is, “to whom do we show love?” The answer is . . . everyone. When Jesus says “love your neighbor as yourself” He refers to all people. Anyone with whom you come in contact is your neighbor and you are to love that person according to what we saw in the previous text from the Sermon on the Mount. In this text we see more ways of showing love. Let’s look at them one by one and draw some practical applications.
(2) Do not murder. This seems easy at first but when you realize that you are not to commit murder in both the physical and verbal sense, then things change a bit. You will probably say, “I have never murdered anyone.” That is more than likely true physically, but verbally I can assure you that you have committed murder.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, . . . (Pro 18:21)
The Bible says that we can slay people with our tongues, usually inflicting more pain that actual murder. When you speak to people (all people) do you use your words to build them up or rip them apart? You can practically show love to others by using your words to build them up.
(3) Do not live an immoral lifestyle. There is a lot involved here so I will try to explain step by step. There are many forms of immorality and I will limit our topic to just a few. One, do not look at pornography. When you look at pornography you are degrading the woman or man who is the center of attention. The human body was not created to be a piece of meat for the viewing pleasure of others. The male body was created for the female (wife) and the female body was created for the male (husband). When you look at pornography you take what God created for good and turn it into evil. You encourage the degradation of the human body by having more pornography created. If you truly love people and want to show that love then stand firm against pornography in all of its manifestations by not viewing it and by discouraging others from viewing it. Do not commit adultery. When you commit adultery you are stealing from the spouse or future spouse of the person with whom you commit this act. Also, you are stealing from your spouse or future spouse. The gift of sexuality that God gave to you is to be shared with your spouse and no one else. When you do not follow God’s plan, you rob from others and that is the opposite of love. If you truly love people then you will not steal their God-given gift. Many people use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to promote immorality but the opposite should be true. We should use Valentine’s Day to promote morality, or true love, love that does not take advantage of others.
(4) Do not steal. This is true in the literal sense just like in the previous example of immorality. Do not take what is not yours (that girl who you are dating yet not married to, she is not yours until you marry her).
(5) The final form of practical love is do not lie. Many times young men are experts in this area. They will claim to “love” a girl when in reality, their desire is to go to be with her. They will “lie” to her (tell her what she wants to hear) in order to get what they want. Usually, after they get what they want, they stop the lies and start telling her the truth that they are not sure about her anymore and off they go to the next victim.
So as you can see, there are practical ways to love people and show love to them by the way that you talk to and treat them. By living this lifestyle you will “honor your father and mother” as Jesus mentioned in His teaching. Do you honor your father and mother by the way that you life your life? Do you practically show genuine love to others in all that you do and say? Or, do you deceive so that you can get what you want and have your needs met above all else? The second option seems to be the way of the world during Valentine’s Day but as Christians we can change that by being an example for others. It all starts with a personal relationship with God. Are you ready to begin?