Pastor’s pondering

Next Wednesday is Valentine’s Day, that annual celebration of the love we have for those closest to us.  Flowers, jewelry, chocolates, and many other tokens of our love will be exchanged, all as a sign of our endearing affection for another.  Yet, this really got me to pondering – why is love only celebrated once a year?  And shouldn’t this love go beyond our closest connections?

When Jesus was challenged by the religious authorities as to what the Greatest Commandment was, his response was simple – “you shall love the Lord our God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, NRSV).

Jesus’s statement sounds simple enough, but, in reality, I think we can all agree that it is quite difficult at the same time.  Love God with all that you are.  All your emotions, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors should be directed solely at the love of God.  Every bit of your being in connection with the divine source, for after all, “God is love” (1 John 4:16).  But then add in the idea of loving neighbor, loving those around us, and loving them “as yourself.”  Loving them the way you would love your own being.

I think this is the big catch, for I have come to the conclusion that we can only love others as much as we love our own selves.  Think about it – how often do you put yourself down?  How often do you find something wrong about who you are and what you do?  Perhaps there is some physical feature you desperately want to change.  Perhaps there is some mannerism you want to alter.  We all have something, something that makes us tell ourselves that we just aren’t good enough.  And if that is how we feel about ourselves, how could we ever feel better than that about someone else?  How can we love another when we can’t even love ourselves?

Yet, here’s the thing.  As he often does, Jesus changed how we are to view this.  When Jesus had finished washing the disciples’ feet prior to the final Passover meal that they would share together before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, he also told them, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  Don’t love as you love, Jesus said.  Love one another as I love you.  Love as Jesus loves.  Love as the Son of God loves.  Love as The Word who has existed from the very start of creation loves. Love as The One who would willingly sacrifice himself for the world loves. 

You see, Jesus loves you.  He loves everyone.  “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  In fact, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).  So, this Valentine’s Day, how can you share that love which you have received and who will you share it with?  I pray it goes beyond what the world tells us to and extends to the entire Kingdom here on earth, just as it is in heaven.

                                                            Always pondering,

                                                            Pastor Steve

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