Love is more than gifts, dinner


February is here and it is the month for love. We rush out and buy gifts for the ones we love, but for many, the celebration of love feels hollow and contrived. Do we only show our love to one another once a year?

What if love is really hard right now? People going through divorce think of little else besides what they’ve lost. Others desperately want to be in a loving relationship but haven’t found the right person. Love is wonderful when we get it right and is sticky and messy and hurts when we get it wrong.

Thankfully, love as a God-given item is much greater than human emotions. The creation stories in Genesis tell of God creating and calling it good. It is an act of love overflowing and being shared with the creation.

The stories of the Hebrew Bible tell of God, time and again, making a covenant with the people and remaining faithful to the covenant even when the people fall short of their promises. God’s faithfulness is an act of love.

God sent prophets to the people to help them correct their behaviors and to be righteous. The sending of the prophets was an act of love to help God’s beloved children change their ways.

Sadly, none of these things seemed to make enough difference and the people continued to love God and one another poorly. Then God sent Jesus to be Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus showed us what love looks like. He spent time with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, prisoners and people deemed unclean. He loved them with his life. He loves us with his life.

Jesus did not ask people to earn his love, he offered it freely to the unlovable, to his friends and to everyone he met. Jesus offers that love to us.

Our culture and society has forgotten how to love first and save judgment for another day. We have forgotten that love is God’s greatest commandment to us.

This month, and every month, I challenge you to love like God loves. Love the person who votes completely differently than you. Love the person standing at your car window asking for help. Love the stranger yelling at her kids in the grocery store.

Love doesn’t mean you agree with another person’s actions, it means you are looking at the world through God’s eyes. It is my prayer that we all experience God’s love and share that love with the world around.

The Rev. Nikki Cooley is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Liberty. She wrote this column on behalf of the Liberty Ministerial Alliance.

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