Greater Than a Decorated Shoe Box
February is called the “Love Month” and is a time to express love to those you care about. Hallmark sells their tear-jerking cards, florists create beautiful arrangements, and stores sell heart-shaped boxes filled with candies. I think love should be shown every day, from the time we awaken to the time we fall asleep.
My earliest memories of Valentine Day were in the innocent days of elementary school. When February came around, I could not wait until the Valentine’s party. That whole week I worked on decorating my Valentine’s box, usually made from one of my dad’s shoe boxes since his feet were the largest in the family and I hoped to fill it! Creating the shoe box was a major production for me. First my mom took me to the store and purchased all types of materials: construction paper, sequins, glitter, buttons, glue sticks, and even shellack to seal the finished product. Then she helped me pick out a package of one-sided Valentines. When the box was finished, I tackled addressing all my cards to my classmates. We were instructed that no one in the class was to be left out. For my best friends, I addressed two cards. For boys I made sure they were not too “lovey-dovey.”
The morning of the party I gathered my box and cards and marched into the classroom, full of excitement, and quickly began depositing cards into each classmate’s box. At 2:00 PM the party began with games, food, and opening Valentine’s cards. Inside my treasured box, sometimes I found a card with heart-shaped candy from a boy claiming his love for me, which made me giggle. One year after a school Valentine party, a boy asked some classmates to a party at his home. As we were eating more and more sugar and playing games in his backyard, the boy hosting the party ran over and kissed my cheek! Trying to impress me, he turned and ran up the steps to the tall porch and jumped over some hedges. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite make the leap and landed in the bushes. Proclaiming his love for me did not end up well for him. With a skinned knee, scratches, and a red face, he ran in the house to hide. These fond memories bring a smile to my face and a chuckle in my heart.
As the years passed, love took on a deeper meaning. I fell in love with my husband, and as we grew older, our love grew stronger. We had children and fell deeply in love with them. When they were little I held each one closely and kissed all their fingers and toes. Later, grandchildren arrived and a grandmother’s inexpressible love welled up inside of me as I held each newborn child. There is an age-old expression stating, “If l knew how wonderful it was to have grandchildren, I would have had them first.” When my husband puts his arm around me and whispers his love, my children honor me, or my grandchildren say, “Honey, I love that you are my grandmother,” joy fills my heart.
In English we use one word for love, but the New Testament uses several Greek words to describe different types of love.
The Greek word “phileo” expresses warmth shared by close friends. This is the love described in Romans 12:10: “Love each other like members of your family” (CEB). It is a give-and-take type of love which can be joyous or even hurtful because it is conditional.
“Eros” is another Greek word for love. To have eros without phileo equals lust. Paul uses this word to instruct couples who can’t control themselves to go ahead and marry. “It is better to marry than to burn with lust (eros),” he wrote. (1 Corinthians 7:9 NLT).
The Greek word “agape” is the strongest word for love. It means to love unselfishly, sacrificially, and with unconditional love. It is the highest form of love that people rarely achieve. This is the type of love God had for us when He sent His Son to die on the cross for us. “For this is how God loved (agape) the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” ( John 3:16 NIV). Jesus demonstrated his unselfish love for us by His horrible death on the cross so that we could be children of the Most High King. The agape love God has for us is unconditional even in those times when we fail. Agape love also encompasses how we should love ourselves. Even though we typically love others with phileo love, it should be our goal to love others and love ourselves with agape love. “We are to love (agape) ourselves as we love our neighbors. …’love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:39 NIV) .
Love should be a condition of the heart and should not change even when our emotions may rise and fall in moments of conflict. Christ’s agape love for us never changes and our love for Him should never change. The more we can strive towards an agape love for others, the more we will have peace and joy in our lives. During this month, and as we continue to love throughout the years, allow God’s agape love to fill your heart.
Today we will use a familiar love scripture as our closing prayer and proclaim His love for us.
“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up” (1Corinthians 13: 4-7 TPT).
(Repeat these words:) GOD’S LOVE NEVER FAILS. Amen.