February is often when our thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day. For couples that may mean, “What am I going to get him/her for Valentine’s?” For a single person it may mean, “I wonder if someone likes me enough to send me a Valentine’s card or gift?” For others it may mean nothing at all. Often the talk show programs focus on the materialism of the day, or on some kind of shallow sentimental display of what is commonly referred to as “love.”
What is true love? Scripture says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and “For God so loved that He gave...” (John 3:16), and “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NLT How different this is from the shallow, sentimental forms of so-called love that flow from the media. We sense that agape love is more than fulfilling selfish desires. We laud as heroes those who sacrifice their lives for others in times of war, a good Samaritan who rushes to a burning car to pull a stranger to safety, and even a friend who donates a kidney. In fact, something as insignificant as donating blood can save a life unknown to us.
How does God show His love? He does not just give a kidney or a pint of blood to save us. He gives Himself to mankind by entering into our world in the fullest sense, becoming like us in every respect, except for sinning (Hebrews 4:15). How did He do this? John 1:14 tells us, “So the Word became human and made his home among us.” We call this act the Incarnation – God becoming flesh, or human. It’s like man becoming an ant in order to communicate with ants, but more so, to give his life for ants. This act of the Incarnation makes it possible for God to show His love for man by entering into man’s world.
Scripture says, “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 NLT). I see unselfish, giving love all over this passage. What an amazing Gift of Love!
What gift can you give to your loved one this Valentine’s Day? In today’s busy world, many couples live in frenetic isolation, in desperate silence, or the boredom of routine. Quality is sacrificed for quantity, in a desperate attempt to find love and identity in stuff, status, or stimulus. Why not try something unique, something incarnational this Valentine’s? Give your loved one the gift of YOURSELF. What a concept! How do you do that? Incarnationally. It is spelt T-I-M-E, and not just any time. This is time without the kids, without TV, without your job, yes, even without your “brain” – your smart device.
What do you do when you give each other the gift of time? You communicate. What does that look like? Sometimes it’s just being together in silence, sometimes it’s holding hands, or going for a long walk on the beach or a mountain path in the rain. The best way to communicate incarnationally is to put all your own thoughts and ideas in your back pocket, to leave your control at home, and just LISTEN to your spouse’s thoughts and ideas for a change, without criticizing or evaluating them. No blame or shame, just hear them, and accept them as they are offered.
The result? You may be surprised at the depth of Incarnational love, and it doesn’t have to cost you a penny, just your full, unselfish attention. Happy Valentine’s Day!