The Truest Act of Love
Valentine's Day. Ah yes, the day of love. A day of beautiful flowers, sappy cards, and enough chocolate to clog many an artery. What is this day really about anyhow? Well, aside from being this pastor's day of birth, it probably has it's origins in an ancient Roman festival known as Lupercalia. It was, among other things, a celebration of fertility. This festival was replaced at the end of the fifth century with what was commonly known as St. Valentines Day. This has a rather dark background that has little to do with love or romance. In fact, Valentine's Day was not seen as a day of romance until the 14th century.
Now that we have established a background, let us talk of love for a few moments. I am not going recite a sonnet or quote Shakespeare, so fear not in thine heart. However I doth attest, MEN...if February 14th is the only day of the year you show appreciation to your wife, we must talk, you and I. With that out of my system, I pose this question; what is the greatest act of love? Scripture is overflowing with many examples of love. In fact, the first four books of the New Testament are accounts of the greatest love story ever known to mankind! No poem or love story could ever begin to equal the powerful conviction of unadulterated love that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yet, we are not Jesus. We are sinners. Wicked-hearted and fallen people. When asked to define love, many a Christian will quip, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Some may point to 1 Corinthians 13, in which Paul went to great lengths to explain to us what love is, and what it is not. These are very true and beautiful examples of love. However, when trying to figure out human to human love, what act best characterizes the love of Christ? The answer is simple...forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the ultimate act of love. How do I know this? Because Jesus died to provide it. Because God offered up His Son so that through Him, we could attain it. Truth is, my wonderful readers, is that we do not deserve God's forgiveness; yet in His mercy He provided a way for us to receive it.
Now, I can attest that forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. In my life I have been truly and deeply wounded by those that I entrusted to love me the most. I have been back-burnered, discarded, forgotten, laughed at, and forsaken by many that I called friends and family. Yet, I have learned over the years that to love is also to forgive. Jesus was so passionate about our forgiving one another that He declared, "But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15). Jesus taught us the greatest thing we can do is to love God with all of heart, soul, and mind. He taught us that the second greatest thing we can do is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Yet He also taught us that in order to love, we must also forgive. Then He died to ensure that we could receive that very thing...forgiveness.
So, this Valentine's Day buy the flowers. Write the cards. Give the chocolates. But if you rrreeeaaalllyyy want to do something great, give someone forgiveness that you have been withholding. That is love, and it is beautiful!
I close with a quote from Shakespeare (gotcha!!); "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" (A Midsummer Night's Dream). Yet friends, forgiveness is a matter of the heart, and the greatest act of true love.
With Love in Christ,
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Photo used under Creative Commons from wbaiv