Valentine’s Day is here…even as a single gal, I have to admit, I look forward to the holiday. I love the pink and red decorations. A little glitter always brightens up the dark winter. Tulips and roses showing up in unexpected places brightening the atmosphere. And who doesn’t love the chocolates??? Of course, we all know that real love—true love—-has very little to do with the things I just mentioned. Those are just pieces of a holiday. True love is so much more. It’s a trait that we, as followers of Christ, are called to live out every day throughout the entire year. How do we do this? A great place to start is by looking at 1 Corinthians 13.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Do you want to be a follower of Christ who represents Him well? Then from time to time, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I demonstrating the character traits found in 1 Corinthians 13? Am I patient? Am I kind?” What about when the line at the grocery store is long and the clerk just made another mistake and has to take time to fix it? Are you kind when it was clearly your turn and someone jumped in front of you? What about at work? Are you kind to your co-workers or do you treat them badly, take advantage of them, or use them to advance yourself? Are the words you speak to people kind? What about the words you speak ABOUT people? Are you gossipy, critical, or cruel or do you use your words to lift people up and encourage them? Do you tend to be a ‘mean girl’—catty, cliquy, and demeaning or are you welcoming, inclusive, trying to lift another person up? The truth is that love really is found in the little things. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13, we can do all of the religious, spiritual stuff right, but if we don’t have love, it doesn’t really mean a thing.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3, the Message)
I remember being in my early twenties when the Holy Spirit really started driving this point home to me. The source He used was a little odd—a popular television show about a minister and his family. (Hey, God talks to all of us differently.) As I was watching the show, the Holy Spirit began pointing out to me how this man interacted with the people in his community.
I noticed how he and his wife always spoke kindly to people. They were friendly. They initiated conversations with everyone they came into contact with throughout their day. When someone needed to talk, they listened.
They helped the people in their community whether they attended their church or not. They were genuinely nice. People trusted them. They curbed their personal frustrations at the front door—they didn’t take them out on other people.
They weren’t necessarily preachy, yet they stood out in a crowd because they treated people differently than people were accustomed to being treated. They offered people hope—a way out of a difficult situation, instead of judgment and criticism. Like the good Samaritan, they met the needs of people they encountered and treated them the way they would like to be treated.
As I watched this show, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “Do you believe that there is a calling on your life? Then start walking in your calling today and train yourself to treat people the way they do.” That was a life-changing moment for me as I realized that I had a personal responsibility to be a representative of Jesus to every person that I came into contact with throughout my day.
From that day forward, I began training myself to be kind. Honestly, it didn’t come easy. We all have days when life is hard and we just want to growl at everyone around us. Considering this “training” started at a time in life when I was feeling sorry for myself, it took a lot of work. Yet, as I obeyed Jesus and chose to “put on” kindness, friendliness, patience, and love, I began to see not only myself, but the people around me change.
Today, the radical challenge I have for you is this: Can people tell you are a follower of Christ by the way you treat them?
Are you actively treating people with love?
Are you going out of your way to meet the practical needs of people?
When people are in crisis, do they know they can count on you?
Are you willing to walk across the street to listen, to be a shoulder to cry on, to take a casserole to a family in trauma, or even just have a friendly conversation?
The sad thing is that some Christians would rather travel across the globe to tell a stranger about Jesus than smile at their neighbor across the street. This isn’t how it should be. We need to be the person who does what’s right, who meets the need, who makes the phone call to say, “We’re here. How can I help?”
What about inside of your church? Do you prefer to hang with your few friends in your little clique or do you welcome the stranger, the family that’s obviously never been to church, the unpopular, the difficult, the one no one wants to include in their gathering?
I wonder if Paul wouldn’t say to us today: “You can have the most professional-sounding worship, the best coffee, the greatest sermons and the most awesome light show in town…but if your church doesn’t have love, it doesn’t have anything.”
All of us, from time to time need to check our hearts and ask, “What can I do to make my church a more loving place?” Then do our part to demonstrate the love of Jesus.
Of course, what really matters is what happens outside of the church. How do we interact with people on a daily basis? How do we speak to them? How do we treat others? Are we totally obsessed with ourselves and our schedule or do we go out of our way to demonstrate Jesus’ love to everyone we meet?
Ultimately, we all need to ask ourselves, “What can I do to better demonstrate the love of Jesus in my life?”
We need to recognize that this is our calling and then begin doing whatever it takes to start actively demonstrating love to our family, to our friends, to our neighbors, and our world.
We need to recognize that our calling is to follow the greatest commandment: Love God and love others. Whatever it takes, this needs to be our mission.
Happy Valentines Day!
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