Valentines Day is one of my least favorite holidays, albeit nowhere close to my distaste for Halloween. While the idea behind it is literally lovely, I have a hard time matching up with the commercialized push to “do something” for your spouse and other loved ones else you don’t truly love them. I am horrible at keeping up with holidays to begin with (Exhibit A: three feet from me is my parents’ Christmas present that I still haven’t sent them and its now the middle of February), so having a holiday that comes just two weeks after my wedding anniversary is a recipe for failure. With all the commercial focus on loving one another, I want to take a moment and consider how God demonstrates His great love for us—through acts of love, service, and sacrifice.
In John 15:13, Jesus spoke to his disciples about love, saying “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In Ephesians 5:25-28, Paul speaks about how husbands should love their wives, saying “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Jesus in John 13 even did a physical act of service, washing his disciples’ feet to demonstrate to them through both service and physical touch His great love for them. I find it interesting that in our commercialized world we are so focused on love as gift-giving of expensive items that we forget true demonstrations of love also include acts of service and sacrifice.
While it is true that each person has ways he or she gives and receives love best (check out The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman), God’s greatest gift of love was an act of service through personal sacrifice. And this wasn’t just an old sacrifice—it literally changed the course of humanity and shifted the balance in our favor, removing the death and decay from sin and ushering in the manifestation of abundant life God planned for us from the beginning of creation. However, it didn’t stop there. He gave us His Holy Spirit to continue that transformative work within us on an ongoing basis, speaking and releasing love to us every day. As it is written, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). If we want to consider how to spread that love best to one another, I believe it looks like every-day acts of love, service, and sacrifice, not as a one-time event.
These acts of love always have to be massive. How about the time when we don’t feel like turning the light off but our wife is also in bed next to us and doesn’t feel like it either. That time our wife wants a foot rub and we are exhausted, but instead of saying no, or even telling her we are tired, we just do it anyway. The time where for no reason whatsoever, and because of no special holiday pressuring us, we go out and get her some flowers or some other small something. That time we put down our electronic devices and purpose to fully listen to whatever it is she is saying without trying to solve the problem (guilty as charged). The time where we don’t feel like cuddling because we are tired, hot, cranky, don’t like it (not sure this one even exists), or whatever else, but that we hold her anyway (Mind you, these ideas can apply to women just as much as men, but I’m a dude, so that’s what you get). These are all little things, and the big things are good and important too, but it is acts of love, service, and sacrifice on a daily basis that truly do what God does–shed love abroad in our hearts.
If our job is to BE Christ to people, then we will look for ways to do that not just with our wives, but with our children, family, friends, and even coworkers. After all, in John 13:34-35 Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (emphasis mine). If all else fails, life happens, or the world falls apart, commercialization has no hold on the future, but we can never go wrong with acts of love, service, and sacrifice.