When I asked my 9-year-old son what he thought would be a good topic to write about, he said that since Valentine’s Day was approaching, maybe we could write about loving our neighbors. While I (being his dad) may be biased in thinking that this was a good idea, perhaps you might agree.
Yes, the love between husband and wife can demonstrate a small taste of what the love between Jesus Christ and His church looks like (see Ephesians 5:25). But, there are many passages that challenge us to love one another – not just a sweetheart.
We are called to love our neighbor, prescribed originally in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18), and reiterated by both Jesus and authors of other New Testament books:
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
James 2:8 NASB
Jesus taught an entire parable about who our neighbors are, recorded in Luke chapter 10. While the parts of the parable that are often retold fall in verses 30-35, I encourage you to read all of Luke 10:25-37. We sometimes call this the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but perhaps it could be called the “Parable of Who Our Neighbors Are, That We Should Love, Because Jesus Told Us To”. (That longer title would have trouble fitting on the title of a children’s storybook, though.)
Jesus also clearly taught his followers to love each other.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 NASB
So, we are called upon to love both those we know and those we don’t know – all the time. Valentine’s Day can add cultural pressure for showing love to a specific person, but it shouldn’t be the only time we show love to everyone else.
Don’t get me wrong – if you’re dating or married on Valentine’s Day, I’m not suggesting that you skip that opportunity to tell that special person how much you love him or her. Just make your life mirror God’s love for all others, and your significant other won’t be able to help but see – and feel – this, too.
And, if Valentine’s Day find you with some friends, or even if it’s you and God spending time together, I hope that you will not only love others, but that you will receive this unconditional, genuine love from others, as well.
Showing love just one day a year – or to just one person – is a great start, but really isn’t enough to fully communicate God’s love to the world.