But if Valentine's Day prompts people to love on others in general, it does make the middle of February in the north much sunnier and more pleasant. And that's what happened in my church this morning, just moments before the praise music began.
Mark, a man in his 20s or 30s with special needs, had wandered up to me as he does each Sunday, usually repeating some phrase or sentence while he looks at me sideways with a halfway smile. And this Sunday he approached already saying something I couldn't hear because of the prelude. "What?!?" I said loudly. "I can't hear you." "Happy Valentine's Day!!" he said again, also loudly. "Oh, you, too!" I exclaimed, pointing to a heart brooch on my sweater.
He nodded and took his seat in front, as usual. And then a church lady wandered down the aisle, pausing as she turned to Mark. But instead of the usual handshake and how-de-do, she leaned over sweetly and planted a big one right on his cheek. In front of the whole church, while God, I'm convinced, smiled down on this Valentine surprise, laughing joyously at the way one of his creatures loved, and loved well. Mark kind of stood up halfway and turned toward our police-officer friend who was sitting right in back of him, gesturing excitedly toward his cheek. He was beaming.
My heart quickly filled with hope and song, the music enveloping us, reminding me of what one loving gesture can do. Of what Jesus' love can do in our hearts when we open it up to Him and discover a bit of what it means to let this magnificent God-love dribble out of us and on to His children around us. At the supermarket. In our cubicle. In the kitchen. And sometimes dribbling over on another of his precious ones, right before a church service begins. I can still see Mark's smile and it fills my heart with cheer. Honest to goodness, it might possibly carry me through the entire week ahead.
I John 4:10-12, The Message
This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!