Love is in the air! Although Valentine's Day is n
ot recognized as a religious holiday, the arrival of February 14 next week serves as a reminder about the importance of demonstrating Love in the Christian community and beyond. Valentine's Day means something different to everyone, but the way we celebrate the day takes on far less significance than the way we as a Christian community treat others during the entire 365-day calendar. So if we look beyond the festive heart-adorned cards, boxes of chocolates, and perhaps the cute teddy bears, we can see that Valentine's Day is a celebration of communal love for each other - or more specifically, a reflection of God's unconditional love for us.
Of course, it's always fun to watch the preschool and elementary-aged children exchange small Valentines (I was reminded of this when my grandson Kravenloft brought home a notice to bring in a package of signed Valentines for each member of his Pre-K class). In the Christian community, we teach our children and grandchildren about unconditional love or "agape," a Greek word that conveys love at the highest level. While romantic love seems to gain the most attention as we approach Valentine's Day, sometimes what gets lost in the shadows of the holiday is the spirit of love illustrated by people sharing "agape" with people whom they may or may not know.
One of the most inspiring examples of agape love is the story of Josh Jacobs and his father Marty. Josh, who recently completed his rookie season as a running back for the Oakland Raiders, and Marty were homeless when Josh was 8-years-old. Josh remembers him and his father living out of a Suburban automobile in Tulsa, Oklahoma after his parents were divorced. Josh also remembers him and his father driving around for hours until they found a safe place to park and sleep for the evening. He remembers his four other young siblings joining them in the car while Marty would drive four hours to and from his job. Following a stellar collegiate career at the University of Alabama, Josh was a 1st-round draft pick and he received a multi-million dollar contract. Just one month ago on January 7, Josh Jacobs bought a beautiful new house for Marty, showing his father the agape love that he demonstrated to Josh as a child.
Yes, this is a story of a father caring for and doing the best he could at the time for his son. This is a story of a son giving back to his father, showing unconditional gratitude for his unconditional love. When I hear agape stories like this, I reflect upon the agape love of Our Father, Our Lord, who unconditionally loved his son Jesus Christ, Our Savior, who then demonstrated the ultimate in unconditional love by dying on the cross for the sins of humanity. That's true agape love!
As we look forward to celebrating the wonderful gift of love on Valentine's Day, please reflect upon a portion of this Love Letter (from activechristianity.org) inspired by Old and New Testament Bible verses:
You may not know me, but I know everything about you. I know when you sit down and when you rise up. I am familiar with all your ways. Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. For you were made in my image. In me you live and move and have your being. For you are my offspring. I knew you even before you were conceived. I chose you when I planned creation...
I love you even as I love my son, Jesus. For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. He is the exact representation of my being. He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you. And to tell you that I am not counting your sins. Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you. I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me. And nothing will ever separate you from my love again...
Enjoy your Valentine's Week!