The Gift of Love

1 Corinthians 13, John 13:34-35 & 15:12-13

Happy Valentine’s Day—Happy Valentines’ Sunday!

Our readings and our focus this morning is love.  Not romantic love, though oftentimes Valentines’ Day has that focus.  All of us have stories and experiences of love, good and bad.  I hope we all know what it is like to have experienced love and acceptance.  We all know what it is like to not be loved and accepted.  Unrequited love is painful.  Being overlooked is too.  Rejection is painful. 

One of the dangers of Valentines’ is to focus on how unloved we are, or how lonely we might be, wishing we had someone in our lives that would help us feel significant and important.  That someone special!

Some years back, on a conservative college campus an announcement was made.  In short it read, “On this campus there is to be absolutely no physical contact of any kind between male and female students.  There is only one legitimate exception to this rule.  If a male student happens to see a female student about to fall to the ground, it is permissible to touch her to break her fall.  However, we shall not tolerate any young woman making a practice of falling.”

Both the Apostles John and Paul, the authors of our readings this morning knew a little about love.  They learned it from the Master.  They knew how to define love; how to recognize it in action.  They had experienced it themselves and knew how to express and share genuine love.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the “love chapter.”  It says some incredibly amazing things about love, but it never talks about how it feels to be loved.  It describes what love looks like when we live it out.  

If we put ourselves to the test and used this chapter as a means for measuring how loving we are, how would we do?  No matter how generous or noble we are, if we do not love we do not measure up.  Period.

There are many in our country today that consider themselves fine examples of what it means to be a Christian—a follower of Jesus—yet they themselves do not love the way Jesus loves.  They hate, discriminate others even in Jesus’ name. Whenever we make excuses for ourselves and justify hating anyone or any group of people, we are not loving the way Jesus loves.  

Unintentionally, and yes maybe intentionally, we tell ourselves it is okay to hate and/or exclude others that act, think, look or believe differently than we do.  But we should not.  We cannot.  Not if we are truly going to love others the way Jesus loves us!

“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.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another!”

This is not optional.  We cannot say we will love only those who meet our criteria.  If they look like me, think like me, act like me, believe like me…then I will try and love them.  No.  Unconditionally God calls us to love all others.  No questions.  No excuses.

Greater love has no one that this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends…if you do what I command you!

A good way to understand this type of love is to put others before ourselves.  Put “you” before “me.”  Think us and not them.  We and not me!

A young man named Doug Nichols went to India as a missionary.  It was 1967 when he had just begin to learn the local dialect when he became infected with tuberculosis.  He was put in a sanitarium to recuperate.  This was not like a health clinic we might find here in the states.

He tried unsuccessfully to share his faith with other patients.  He had Gospel tracts and pamphlets with him, but no one was interested or wanted to know anything about him or Jesus.

One night, about 2 a.m. Doug woke up coughing.  Across the aisle, he noticed an old man trying to get up.  But he was too weak to stand.  He tried several times and each time fell back into bed, crying and exhausted.  Early the next morning this same old man again tried to get up but was too weak and sick to do so.  Later that morning the smell that filled the room made it obvious what the problem was.  He had been trying to get to the bathroom, but was unable to do so.  The other patients made fun of him.  The nurses who came to clean him up were disgusted with him.  They slapped him in the face and yelled at him.  

The next night the same thing began to happen.  The old man tried in vain to get to his feet.  This time something different happened.  Doug, even though he was very weak and ill himself, forced himself up.  He hobbled over to the old man, placed one arm around the old man’s neck and the other under his legs.  With great effort Doug was able to lift the sick man up, carry him to the filthy, stench-filled latrine and hold him while he did his business.  Then he carried him back to his bed.  Doug was placing the sick old man into his bed when the man turned and kissed his cheek and whispered in his language, “thank you!”  

The next morning as Doug was waking up, one of the Indian patients was waiting with a cup of hot tea for him.  After he served Doug the cup of tea, he motioned for one of Doug’s tracts.  

Doug wrote that all through the day people kept coming to him asking for more Gospel tracts—including nurses, hospital interns, and doctors.  By the end of the day everyone in that little hospital had a tract, booklet or the Gospel of John.  Over the next several days several came to him and told him they had come to trust Jesus as their Savior as a result of reading the material he had given them.  

Doug writes that it all was simply because he had taken an old weak man to the bathroom in the middle of the night, when he though no one was watching.  It was a simple act of love that anyone could have done.  

They will never care how much we know, until they know how much we care!”  “The love in your heart was not put their to stay.  Love is not love until you give it away!”

One more quote for this Valentines’ Sunday:  “What the world needs now is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there is just too little of…”  (Dionne Warwick, 1998).

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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