I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day! I do love that holiday that celebrates romance even though I do not have a “love” in my life. (Nor do I want one.) I have shared with you before that Valentine’s Day can be very lonely as we look at all the sentimental ads, see all the romantic movies on the Lifetime channel, the cupids dangling from the grocery store ceilings, the boxes of candy wrapped in red, and the mounds of flowers that greet us. All point to love and romance. Unless, like me you are alone. Then it all seems to mock me in my loneliness.
Some years ago I had had enough of my self-pity and decided to do something about it! So I decided to have a group of single gals in for a dinner party with all the trimmings complete with party favors. I have repeated it several times and this year was no exception! I had a few single gals come for dinner – tried out some new recipes, set the table festively in red and white and splurged on a big bunch of red tulips. Each of the ladies brought something and the meal was delicious. We had interesting conversation, got to know each other better, good food and lots of laughter. What more you could you ask? It was a very compatible group and I enjoyed myself entirely. None of us thought about our “single” status – we were having too much fun! (I am not sure many “couples” had as good a time!)
But I have been thinking about love. My daughter gave me a wonderful book, Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Phil Ryken. Excellent. I have not finished it yet – I just received it Friday. But just in the first several pages I have been challenged in my own life about the motives I have for doing things. He writes about I Corinthians, chapter 13 not as a passage to be read at weddings – as lovely as it is – but as a verb, as an action not an affection. He says, “It is possible to use our gifts for ministry without having love in our hearts for anyone except ourselves”. (ouch!) “We are so selfish that it is even possible for us to do something that looks like it is for someone else when it is really for us – to enhance our own reputation or feed our satisfaction with our selves.”
I had to stop and ask myself about my motives even for the Valentine’s dinner party. Was that just to enhance my own reputation? Make me look good? As I pondered that I realized that I cannot love as Jesus loves. I don’t love as Jesus loves. It was as if a spotlight exposed my darkened and closed heart. Dr. Ryken talks about this chapter being the love that God demands and expounds on the 10 Commandments. “These are not just the laws of God; they also display the love God demands. Each commandmnet requires us to love our neighbor. When God sasy, “Do not murder,” he is telling us to love our neighbor by protecting their lives. When he says, “Do not commit adultery,” he is telling us to love people by safeguarding their sexual purity. And so forth.”
I do not love that way. I have fallen short and will continue to do so. All my best efforts to love have been coated in a layer of self. Everything is tainted by self. My only hope to love the way Jesus does is the grace of God and the power of His Holy Spirit working in and through me. I believe that is true for all of us. Only Jesus can deliver me/us from my/our own self-interest. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote Romans 7:19-25.
And I love Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Thank you, Jesus! He has paid it all for me/us. I/We am/are clothed in His righteousness. I have none of it my own even on my best day. It is all Him! Hallelujah what a Savior!