February is Valentine’s month. It is a time to reach out to someone we love and let them know that they are loved. I am sure a lot of children exchanged Valentines and a lot of youth and adults exchanged chocolates and flowers with a note that says, “I love you!” on February 14.
For Christians, the Bible tells us about the best valentine of all: that “God is love.” It also tells us that “we love God because He first loved us.” Perhaps one of the the most well-known Bible verses is John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In the Christian tradition, God is love and this is an incredible truth because it means, in God’s eyes, you and I are valuable and mean a lot to Him.
Even more incredible is our belief that God knows everything about us, and he still loves us. He knows everything, I mean everything. There is nothing we can hide from God. He knows. He knows all our thoughts and actions. He even knows the attitude of our hearts.
In the New Testament, the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 13 is known as “the love chapter” of the Bible. The Apostle Paul is telling the church people they need to learn to love one another with a God-centered love. Verses 4-7 (in the New International Version of the Bible) say “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
The challenging question to grapple with is how can we love with a God-centered kind of love, a selfless kind of love? This kind of love is not just a feeling that comes and goes. It is committed, willful and sacrificial, and is given freely without conditions. This is where the verse “we love because he first loved us,” comes in. He loved us first with a love that loves no matter how many times we have messed up in our lives. He simply loves us just as we are. He comes to us right where we are in our life and extends His love to us. He doesn’t force it on us. He simply loves us.
I believe that God loves us right where we are and just as we are. Christian author and minister, Leighton Ford, once said, “God loves us the way we are, but too much to leave us that way.” His love is what draws us from being just what we were, to becoming what God wants us to be. He wants to transform us to be more and more like Jesus, to love more like Jesus, which is far more than I could ever hope for myself. His power is transforming me from being filled with selfish love into loving others with a selfless, God-centered kind of love.
My life experience has convinced me that we need God’s love. We need to know God loves us. And when we do, we can pass His love on to others. Remember, if God had a refrigerator in heaven, your picture would be on it. He loves you that much!
• Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene.