It’s the month of love. The card aisle at the store is lined with messages of love. Today my youngest has party at his preschool where he will hand out sweet treats to his classmates. And red heart shaped decorations are everywhere.
With Valentine’s Day this month, I wanted to help my boy focus on real love. Not just the kind you share on the 14th of February each year with little poetic thoughts and heart shaped candies. No, I want them to learn about true love.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.” 1 John 3:16
For the past few weeks, my boys have been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. A famous passage often used in weddings, it summarizes what real love looks like. When they started learning it, I not only talked with them about the fact that God wants us to love each other that way, but more importantly, that 1 Corinthians 13 tells us how God loves us.
They know it is hard to love others. We pray about their own battles and arguments between each other all the time. As my youngest always reminds me, they can’t love perfectly.
But Jesus did and does.
And it’s that truth that is at the heart of the gospel: because Jesus loved us, we can now love one another. 1 John 4;19 says, “We love each other because he loved us first.” Without God’s love, we cannot really love others. Oh, we can feel warm fuzzies, we can respond in kind when someone else is loving to us, but real love is impossible without Christ.
Self-sacrificial love is the love Christ has for us. It’s this Love that left heaven above for a cattle trough on earth. It’s this Love that left riches unimaginable to live a life of poverty, having no home of his own. It’s this Love that dined with the outcasts, walked with sinners, and washed the dirty feet of a traitor.
It’s this perfect Love that became sin so that we could be freed to love one another.
When I instruct my boys in what it means to love one another, I have to first teach them about this Love that died for them. They can only love others because He loved them first.
Do you ever talk with your children about scripture and then later realize there is a lesson there for you too?
I’ve hidden this truth about love, deep in my heart where the other treasures of His word are stored. I’ve listened to my boys recite 1 Corinthians 13 over and over. Then comes a day of running late, whining, losing things, boys bickering and I’m pushed hard. And then one more argument breaks out. My irritation builds and the frustrated sarcasm begins to rear its ugly head.
I breathe deep and pause. ”He loved me first, He loved me first, He loved me first…” It’s like a mantra I repeat over and over in my soul. I remember the Gospel of Love, of all I’ve done against my Savior and of all He’s done for me. I remember that He loved me first so that I could love my children. I return to the cross and remember that His perfect life of love was given to me.
Slowly the irritation and impatience lessens, like air being released from a balloon. Focusing on Christ’s love for me frees me to love my children. I can only love these little eternal souls because He loved me first. It is His love which empowers me to love as He loves.
My children and I are in the same boat, none of us can love on our own. They can’t love each other without Christ, and I can’t love them without Christ. This Valentines Day, as we make our heart shaped cards and give out red and pink treats, let us all remember the source of real love and why we can even love in the first place–because He loved us first.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10