February is the month of the year in which our community will recognize Valentine’s Day. Celebrated annually, on February 14, the day has become widely-renowned for giving cards, flowers and candy to the ones we love most. It is also a time of sharing sentiments of friendship with co-workers and colleagues. It is a day to demonstrate our love and friendship for one another in a tangible way.
Saint Valentine’s Day is also an annual celebration in some Christian churches. They honor one or more of the early saints named “Valentine,” many of whom died in martyrdom. One such martyr was Saint Valentine of Rome. It is said he was imprisoned for marrying young soldiers to their loves against the orders of Emperor Claudius. He did this because of his deep conviction to honor the God of heaven and earth, rather than mortal men. Only love can enable one to make such a sacrifice.
I find it humbling that the original intent of this holiday was to honor those who sacrificed their lives for the benefit of mankind. Saint Valentine’s love for God was more than a fleeting emotion. It was a deep conviction so strong he willingly gave his life to uphold it. Through his unwavering conviction, he demonstrated evidence of God’s love that was deeply embedded in his heart and soul.
With that being said, there is one who ranks above all martyrs when it comes to unselfish love. He was born into the world to bring the greatest gift of love possible. He made that love available to all who had a heart to receive it. Through his martyrdom, he fulfilled the desire of His Father to re-connect mankind to God. This Son loved his Father so deeply that he willingly sacrificed his own life to make the way for all of us to share an eternal relationship with Him. What love is this, that a Son would willingly give his life at his Father’s request so that all might have the opportunity to have eternal life?
Yes, I am sharing about the love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God’s love for mankind was so great that he sent His Son into the world to redeem all of us and provide the way for us to receive eternal life. Those who receive this wonderful gift of salvation are given full rights and authority to become sons of God. Through Jesus, we are grafted into God’s family. Now, that is what I call true love! We become more than just members of a church — we become THE church — the expression of God’s love on the earth. We become sons and daughters of God through the Son. Our covenant with God through Christ becomes the proof and power of our sonship.
The early church had a deep understanding of this great love. On the Day of Pentecost, they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and were empowered by God to be witnesses of Jesus throughout the earth. The word “witness” in Scripture is the equivalent of our English word “martyr.” Jesus taught the early church that they would become living martyrs by demonstrating His message of love through their manner of life. The Book of Acts is filled with accounts of their passionate love for Jesus. Many signs and wonders were wrought through the church by believers who sacrificed their own personal welfare to help others. All this was done because of their deep love for God.
No doubt, the greatest expression of love is through sacrificing one’s own desires and personal comforts for the welfare of others. Throughout history, many have demonstrated what this sacrifice looks like. America, in fact, was established by those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of others. These selfless individuals dedicated their lives to birth a nation of freedom under God. Texas, too, achieved liberty and became a republic through the sacrifice of such men and women. Many today still embody this principle of freedom. They include our military, law enforcement, first responders, firefighters, chaplains and others who selflessly lay down their lives, every day, so we might be safe, at peace and secure in our nation. We should never take their sacrifice for granted and should always be supportive of their service and dedication.
As the church, it is important that we, too, demonstrate the love of our Father in tangible ways throughout the year, not just on special holidays. There are many ways to demonstrate our love for others, particularly in the areas involving life itself. A story I recently heard involved a police officer and a child. The officer was dispatched to an elementary school to investigate a vandalism complaint. As he was writing the crime report, a little boy stepped up to him, scanned him from head to toe, and asked, “Are you a cop?” The officer responded “yes” while continuing to write his report. The child then said, “My mom told me if I ever needed help, I should ask the police. Is that right?”
“Yes, that is right,” the officer replied not looking down. The little guy then extended his foot to the officer and said, “Well, then, would you please tie my shoe for me?” The officer paused momentarily, looked down at the child, dropped to one knee, and tied the little guy’s shoelace. As illustrated in this story, even small acts of love done for the least of mankind are great. What an impact this officer must have made upon this child!
Small demonstrations of love can also grow into very large ones. I recall the story of a Vietnamese child who was forced to steal food to feed his brothers and sisters. One day, a local vendor caught him and started beating him, but another man stepped in to stop it. The man then took the child to his shop, poured him some soup and crackers and instructed him to take it at no charge. Years later, this poor soup vendor developed cancer and needed urgent surgery. He had no money for the operation, but a doctor stepped in, took his case and performed the surgery. When the soup vendor received his bill, it simply stated “one bowl of soup and crackers.” To his amazement, the man realized the surgeon was the little boy who, years before, had received his act of kindness. He was now a doctor and performed the operation at no charge. What love is this?
Acts of selflessness are contagious. I wonder what opportunities await you to help someone else in need. We live with the misconception that our affluent community is filled with people who have few, if any, real needs. However, I would encourage you to look around. The needs of our community are ever-present and, in some cases, dire. There is no shortage of opportunities to help others through acts of love. Let’s no longer simply look at ourselves as Christians who attend church; let’s follow the example of Christ and BE the church.
Larry Burden is the founder and senior pastor at KingdomLife Christian Center.