As the month of February begins so does the focus of love, after all, February is the month of love, right? And Valentine’s Day, draws our attention to all things love: flowers and candy. For some, the day might include jewelry or a nice romantic dinner, but even with all the sweetness, I can't help but wonder if we've become misguided in our expressions of love. Don’t get me wrong, as a lover of gifts, I’m rather fond of receiving my card from my sweetheart; I can also be enraptured by a good love story. But what if love isn’t about flowers, candy, jewelry or romantic dinners? These days I find myself wondering if we’ve confused real love with a superficial love that “presents only an appearance without substance or significance”(Merriam-Webster.com)?
Merriam-Webster defines substance this way; ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change; and significance as the quality of being important. So true love is supposed to be the ultimate reality, which underlies our outward expression. If my love had substance to it, then everything—my words and actions—would flow from this place of truth and importance. I’ve grown weary of a love that only appears loving but has no truth behind it. You too? In my perfect-love-story-world everyone is kind, there are no snarky remarks, hurt feelings or social media character attacks. I wonder if God is weary of it too.
Paul wrote, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good” (Romans 12:9, NLT). Wow. I guess it’s time to confess: I’m guilty of pretending. I haven’t always done an exceptional job hating the wrong, rather than the one I believe to be in the wrong. While “hate” is a strong word, and I truly don’t hate anyone, sometimes it takes effort to discover the good I’m supposed to hold tightly to, and honestly, there are times I don’t want to put in the effort. It’s easier to turn away mad. It has taken me years to discover that while I may not always agree with everyone—I may not even like everyone—God can help me genuinely love everyone, regardless of our differences. I know it's possible because I’ve come to realize this nugget of truth: love can’t be driven by feelings, sometimes…love just must be.
One characteristic of God that I cherish most is His steadfast love. It brings me great comfort knowing God’s love is firmly fixed in place. It’s not going anywhere. And it’s not superficial. He doesn’t lavish His love on us to make us feel good, or for public appearances. His nature is to love us. It’s who He is. And those who are born of God share this nature of love. How is that possible? “Because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5, NET).
When conflict arises we will never know how to correctly communicate and resolve the issue unless we understand that true love should flow continuously from of a heart filled with God’s love. For all those people who rub you the wrong way and you just don’t like, well, you are called to love them because God does. This is how Jesus was able to say, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a, NIV).
Loving someone who hasn’t made life easy can be a challenge. Yet, when I allow God to change my identity—one letter at a time—I am set free from pretending so I can display a love that remains steadfast, loyal and faithful.
“According to Your steadfast love refresh me and give me life, So that I may keep and obey the testimony of Your mouth” (Psalm 119:88, AMP).
Be S-Steadfast in love.