I hope you had opportunity to share love with someone special this past Valentine’s Day. Some kids were asked the question, “What is love?” This is what they said:
“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.” — Nikka, age 6
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore so my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” — Rebecca, age 8.
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” — Billy, age 4
“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” — Tommy, age 6
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt.” — Chris, age 7
“There are two kinds of love, Our love. God’s love. But God makes both kinds of them.” — Jenny, age 8
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” — Jessica, age 8
Valentine’s Day is a day children exchange Valentines and couples exchange flowers and candy, or go out to dinner. And there are some who probably feel left out. But when it comes to what I call, “grace-filled love,” there is room for all. For all desire to be treated with love, respect, grace and mercy by others. But the shoe also fits on the other foot and others desire the same thing. I heard a definition of mercy that says, “Mercy is not being treated as our sins deserve.” “Grace is being treated better than we deserve.” Often, our human nature wants to treat people the opposite of mercy and grace. But Christians are called to a higher standard. Followers of Jesus are called to represent the love and grace of God a lot more than we are called to represent his judgment and condemnation. Yet, too many people see Christians defined as the latter, rather than the former. Jesus treated people with love, mercy and grace. We ought to do the same.
I have been intrigued and challenged by Juneau’s 2017 Year of Kindness Challenge. I remember years ago a national leader called for a “kinder and gentler nation.” I think that is a wonderful goal to aspire in our own community. Too often we experience the opposite of people disrespecting property or cutting people off on the highway or running red lights putting other drivers in danger. I read about assaults and fights and other altercations by our own residents and the drug and alcohol problems as well as the homeless issues. A Year of Kindness is a great thing, but for followers of God who want to emulate the teachings of Jesus, kindness, love and grace ought to be a way of life. We should be leading the way! Let’s be kind to one other, showing God’s grace-filled love.
• Dan Wiese is pastor at the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a reoccurring Neighbors column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.