As Valentine’s Day approaches, you might be thinking about LOVE a little bit more than usual. Maybe you are focused on what to get that special someone – a spouse, fiancé, boyfriend or girlfriend. You might also be reminiscing about past events with a former loved one, wishing they were a part of your life again. Or, like many, you are looking for a reason to forget about Valentine’s Day and are looking forward to the 50%-off chocolate sale the next day. Either way, this is a time of the year people tend to focus on expressing love to someone special.
Jesus often focused on love in his teachings and ministry. When he was asked to pick the most important law, he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). He starts off by saying, we need to love God. We are commanded to love God with our heart, soul and mind (literally every aspect of our being). How do we do that?
Later in Jesus’ ministry he stated, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). One of the fundamental ways we can express our love for God is by keeping his commandments. To help us cultivate a strong desire and passion for loving God, we must come to know God’s own love for us. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:16; 19). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Yet when Jesus was asked which of the commandments were most important, he did not pick just one. Rather he said, “and the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 28:39). The following passage in 1 John says something similar, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).
This kind of love for our neighbor requires action, not just empty words or good intentions. Jesus served others his entire ministry by feeding them, teaching them, healing them and even dying for them. This kind of love can be hard, and Jesus knows this because he lived it. Jesus committed the ultimate act of love by dying for our sins. Paul sums it up best in Philippians by writing, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others… And being found in human form, he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-4; 8).
How often do you put effort into loving your neighbor? We go out of our way on Valentine’s Day to say I love you to a special someone. But how many times do you put that same effort into showing love to “your neighbor”?
“God the Creator loved us so much that he sent Jesus into the world to show his love and care for us. He wants us to imitate his love and serve others in the same way that he served us.” (In Need of a Savior, Why Should I Be Like Christ?, “Jesus Serves”)
At the end of Jesus’ ministry, he commanded his Apostles, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus truly defined what it means to “love our neighbor” and calls us to do the same. This Valentine’s Day, let’s not only put effort into showing love to our special someone, but let’s look for ways we can love our neighbor!