February has always been a weird month for me. I’m slightly colorblind, and it has always offered the challenge of a thousand different shades of red to quantify and explore. Most hearts posted over archways would be a dark and vibrant maroon, or so I’m told. All these shades of red form an annual sea of hallmark symbolism. For a couple of weeks, love is on the minds of our nation, and eager children wait to prove their popularity through the collection of the most valentines. Of course, this month heavily sits upon the hearts of those who aren’t in relationships; decorative hallways becoming ugly reminders. This is probably why we put it in the shortest month, and then put the holiday in the middle so everyone can forget it faster.
In the midst of all this, several preachers will seize the opportunity to express that love is not a feeling. It is an action. For one brief Sunday morning, valentines’ day is lampooned as the monstrous creation of the mad Dr. Valentine (who, incidentally, probably works for hallmark). All of our holidays can feel a little like conspiracy theories. So there. That is February. The thing is thinking about love doesn’t bring to my mind sappy feelings. I agree in theory with all those preachers, but in reality love doesn’t make me think of action. In a lot of ways it doesn’t lend itself to definition, simply illustration. So when I think of love, I think of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t ever really attempt to define love, which I think is rather funny. He said we should love. We should love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. We should love our neighbor as ourselves. So of course we wonder, “Okay, this love stuff is great and all, but how exactly should we do that Mr. Jesus?” After correcting our formality about that whole ‘Mr’ business, I don’t think Jesus would have had much left to answer. He never defined it. He never pontificated upon how the agape is a special matter of self-sacrificial action on behalf of it’s object. He just went on doing things. He would eat at the houses of despised men, and his acceptance changed everything. He wore himself out on compassion, but lived in this intimate relationship with the Father that always took priority. He stepped into human history to impact a dozen men’s lives radically enough to turn the whole world upside down. When he told his disciples that it was by their love that they would be known, he gave the closest thing to a definition of love I’ve ever heard.
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
That’s profound, and honestly still incredibly mysterious. Jesus actually had a lot to say about life and what we do with it. He told his disciples to do the things he did. That is how love is taught. Love is demonstrative. Love can’t be captured and trapped in ink on a page. God is love, and love came to life on Christmas night. Love then proceeded to flip some tables, heal some lepers, confuse the religious, find the broken, haunt the proud, carry the weary, and trade it’s life for our deadness. Love came to dwell in our souls, demand our attention, and radically change our action. So when you think about love, join me in thinking about Jesus. And when you think about Jesus, go and do what he did. That’s love.