Now that the Christmas and New Year’s sales are over in the retail stores it is time to move on to the next commercial holiday – Valentine’s Day. Can’t you feel the love in the air? Rows of bright and colorful cards blind your eyes at the store, the scent of fresh cut roses hits wafts to your nose, and who can resist the sparkle of a girl’s best friend? That famous Beatles’ song got it right – “money can’t buy me love.”
Can we put a price tag on love? All too often, people end up looking for love in all the wrong places. This is easy enough to observe in the world we live in. Every consumer-based industry, from jewelry to luxury auto-dealers count on people to look for love at the mall rather than in their own homes. Politicians have become known in recent years to look for love outside of their marriage vows. And Hollywood A-listers put NASCAR drivers to shame with the speed they shift from relationship to relationship and from marriage to marriage. Apparently, wealth, success, power, and fame can’t buy you love (or happiness) either.
But what about us? Do we get caught up looking for love in all the wrong places too? Of course we do. We use the word “love” as a synonym for something we enjoy: I love watching my favorite sports team…oh, I just love those chocolates from Sees’…I love that show on TV, etc. Not only does the word “love” get tossed around flippantly, but we are often quick to put the things of this world at the center of our love. Scripture tells us that this selfish self-love we often chase after is a result of sin. This was the kind of love that Adam and Eve chased after. The love that Satan tempted them into was a love of self over and above the love of God which was theirs in fullness and perfection in the Garden of Eden. As it was with Adam and Eve, God’s love can be rejected.
God’s love can’t be bought either it is a gift. 1 John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Love of God and love for God begins with Him. It does not begin with us because our sinful nature neither loves God nor wants anything to do with Him and His gifts. According to our sinful nature, we look for love in the power and success of this world, in the empty promises of selfish love and in the sinful pleasures and desires that bombard our eyes and minds daily. Truly there is a way that seems right unto man, but leads to death.
This is why St. John also declares that God is love. It is one thing to say we have love for one another, or that we show it from time to time. But God is love. Love is God’s disposition toward you in Christ. In his brilliant book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis called this Need-love. That is to say, that all people need to be loved, to receive love and to share in this basic human gift that comes as a result of God’s love for us in Christ. St. Augustine said it this way, “Our souls are restless oh, Lord, until they find their rest in You.” Lewis identified this Need-love on the basis of Scripture. “In Romans 3 we read, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” We could also add – no one loves God or others – to the list.
Thankfully, this is not how God’s love works. Lewis identified God’s response to us as Gift-love. Divine love is Gift-love. “The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus the world (in Himself) back to the Father too” (The Four Loves). This is God’s perfect Gift-love for you and for the whole world. It is the best ’s gift, wrapped not in a bright card or with red roses, but in Human flesh and with His righteous blood which covers our sin. And this love is not bought with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Jesus on the cross and with His innocent suffering and death on our behalf. Lewis goes on to say, “those who come nearest to the Gift-love of God will next moment, even at the very same moment, be beating their breasts with the publican and laying their indigence before the only real Giver. And God will have it so. He addressed our Need-love: ‘Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy-laden’, or in the Old Testament, “Open your mouths wide and I will fill it’ (The Four Loves).
The cross of Christ is the right place to look for love – any and every day of the year. It is this love – made known to us in Christ’s life, death and resurrection for us – that binds Christians together in the Church and in the home. As we reflect on love we do well to listen again to God’s definition of the perfect love in His Son that casts out all fear. “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God (1 John 4:14-15).”
Pastor Samuel Schuldheisz – 3/1/2009