I recently returned from visiting the Lower 48. I noticed the stores were decorated red and filled with seasonal hearts, flowers and candy to help people celebrate Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s is a day to celebrate love and show love to the people you love. This brought me to thinking about the best valentine of all — Jesus Christ.
I was thinking about different people’s perspective of God and wondered how many people truly comprehend how much God loves each and every one of us.
I have met people with different beliefs about God. A girl I went to college with thought God was an old man with a long white beard and a big club just waiting for her to mess up so he could punish her.
Someone else thought of God as a sort of Santa Claus who keeps a nice and naughty list. God doesn’t love those on the naughty list and bad things happen to them.
Some see God as only a set of rules to follow or a list of good deeds to earn his favor or his love.
Others see God as they see their own flawed human fathers who are sometimes cruel, abusive and harsh.
There are some who cannot understand how God could ever love them because they feel so unworthy. Or maybe because they have done too many bad things and haven’t been good enough to earn his love.
I learned a lot about God’s love when I became a parent. I loved my kids very much and would have done anything for their safety and protection. I wanted the very best for them, and though they may not have understood it at the time, I always sought that which would always be for their ultimate good. Sometimes I had rules for them to follow (like stop and look both ways before crossing the street) for their safety and protection. Sometimes I would have to say no to their requests because the consequences would not be for their highest good. I would and did sacrifice much for them and love them with all my heart.
I then realized God loved me that much and so much more. I knew I didn’t deserve it. And I knew I could never do enough to earn his love or ever be good enough to deserve his love. But then I realized he loves me anyway. He loves me just as I am, but he also loves me enough to change me to become more and more like Jesus.
The Bible says God lavished his love on us (1 John 3:1). It also says he loved us enough for Jesus to die for us. He so wants to forgive us — even while we were yet sinners. (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8). And what he wants most from us is to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). The Bible has so much more to say about how much God loves you. God is love. (1 John 4:9) And we love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
It is always great receiving a valentine from someone because you know that someone was thinking about you and willing to express love and appreciation to you by giving you a special valentine or a gift. God loves you and gives you his son, Jesus, because he loves you so much. Jesus really is the best valentine of all.
• Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene.