Valentines day is all about love. There’s no room for hate. We hate hate. We hate haters, too. And we who hate haters are not ourselves haters. How about you? You’re not a hater, are you? You’re a good person, right? You know that God looks at a person’s heart, and you know that you have no hate, so you’re OK, right? Well, let’s take a look.
First, let’s lay some groundwork. Jesus agreed with the Old Testament writings that God’s most important commandment was the one that said to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Then He added ” And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke’s version of this exchange, a lawyer wants to know “And who is my neighbor?” Here is what Jesus said in reply:
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Here Jesus is using a parable to teach us a little bit about love. And the implications of this teaching should cause a lot of soul searching. The robbers had no love, that’s obvious. But what about the priest and the Levite? They were not haters. They were good people. At least that’s how they thought of themselves. But Jesus’ teaching showed us all that love is not just a feeling of benevolence. It’s so much more. It’s an attitude that says the opposite of what Cain said to God when He asked him where his brother was. (Am I my brother’s keeper?) It says instead, he is my brother, and his safety and well being is more important to me that my business in town, the activities I had planned for myself for the rest of the day, my money, or my time. I may not know him, but I am his keeper, at least so long as he is unable to keep himself.
That’s not what most of us think of as love. We tend to use the hearts and flowers and plump, happy babies definition, where love is a feeling we get. It’s the kind of love we express on Valentine’s Day. It’s the “sweet, sweet” kind of love.
But this Valentines day, why not consider another kind of love? The kind Jesus talked about is the sacrificial kind. It’s the kind that goes to just sit and chat with an elderly or disabled or unemployed person. It’s the kind that sees suffering and says “I can’t do much about it, but I can do something.” It starts with an awareness of who and whose we are.
I don’t know if you’ve ever though about it this way, but your life is not your own. It belongs to your spouse, or your neighbor, or your coworker, or your mailman or your trash collector, or that friend you’ve lost touch with. And whether you know it or not, Jesus loves you and wants to be your friend too. So if you realize that you are important to someone else – anyone else – you matter. You are not your own. So you know whose you are. And to know who you are, you have to look at the “fruit” you have produced.
Jesus used another metaphor to show us that we are so blind to our own faults that we try to fix others even while we ourselves are completely broken. “…hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” When we see clearly, we realize we’re not all that. We see the log in our own eyes, and we are unable to extract it, let alone fix the speck our of our brother’s eye.
So if we know who we are – wrongdoers who are unable to stop doing wrong even though we want to – and whose we are – we belong to every one whose life we have ever touched and to our maker – only then will we WANT to stop and take pity on the hurting, and take care of him. Only then will we dig into our own pockets to assure he is cared for. And only then will we arrange for further care, and promise to return to complete the caregiving that’s needed. And only then will we be able to see fruit. We see it in the smiles we get for our kindness. We see it in friends who reach out to us when we are sick or when we lost a loved one. And we see it in the approval we get from Jesus, on “that day.”