Today is my favorite holiday - Valentine's Day! I don't know why but I've loved this day since I was a little girl - even more than Christmas! And that's saying something since I really love holidays. I love the special memories they make and the decorations and the food and the music and all the rest that goes with well-celebrated holidays.
When I was about six, I gave a Valentine tea for my mother. I invited her friends. I made heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The friends came in their furs and we all pretended it was a big deal even if it was only a little six-year-old girl saying "I love you" to her mother. I guess that is a big deal - come to think of it!
This morning I found a really sweet card and a bouquet of fresh flowers on the kitchen counter when I got up to make coffee. That's all the up-side of Valentine's.
Somehow my thoughts have turned to thinking about a little different slant on this special day. Actually a phone conversation with a friend probably prompted my thoughts. She was reflecting on a difficult time we had gone through together and how it was now behind us and how cool that was.
That hard time was pretty ugly in all kinds of ways. There were certainly people involved who intended evil. I supppose that puts them and their actions in the class of "enemy." In Matthew 5:43 - 48 Jesus talked about such people and their actions. He had some pretty radical things to say. He said, "Love your enemies." I sometimes struggle with loving family and friends much less enemies.
In vs. 44 Jesus describes one way we can start the process of loving an enemy: pray for them. There is a parallel passage in Luke 6:27 - 36. Jesus goes even further there. He instructs His disciples (those who follow Him), "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you."
What does loving an enemy look like? Loving an enemy isn't just a thought in the mind or a declaration on the lips. Loving an enemy is an action of the heart that is radical.
When God's love grips my heart with grace, then I see that I am truly a big sinner who is loved and cherished by God anyway. WOW! If God can love me, then I guess I need to work on this concept of love that extends to my "enemy" - to that person or persons who have perpetrated evil toward me. (There's a real sense in which the category "sinner" makes me - and you - an enemy of God.)
Only when I understand the depth of God's love for me and how radical it is that I can ever begin to offer that same radical love to others - even those who don't want my love because they wish me ill or worse. It becomes a matter of wanting for even an enemy to experience the same radical love I have found and experienced.
Think about it! That's how Jesus loved. He loved even His enemies. It wasn't a very self-protecting thing for Jesus to do: love His enemies. He just made more enemies in the process. But Jesus lived and demonstrated "Love in skin" (John 1:14)!
"In the presence of His enemies" Jesus practiced RADICAL LOVE! When evil encounters such radical love there are only two options: evil either runs away or it is changed/restored!
In his book Bold Love, Dan Allender defines offering love to an enemy: "Love can be defined as the free gift that voluntarily cancels the debt in order to free the debtor to become what he might be if he experiences the joy of restoration."
We cannot (and should never) force love on an enemy. That would not be loving. Our love extended to an enemy may be rejected, but that's not on our head (or heart). Our responsibility is to have a radical heart of love even to our enemies! That is only possible when we have experienced God's radical love and restoration in our own hearts!
What a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day! It's no longer a little girl "playing dress-up" and having tea. It's radical love in action due to God's loving restoration! It happens one heart at a time!