Choosing to Love
“It (love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” - I Corinthians 13:7-8
There are certain scriptures that are what I call my “go-to” scriptures – words that serve as anchors for me. I return to these words over and over when I’m struggling and when I need to be reminded, grounded, anchored in certain fundamental truths. I Corinthians 13, especially verses 4-8, and even more precisely, the verses above serve as one of those go-to scriptures. I’ve shared before that I came across those words as a young 18-year-old struggling with a painful situation in my life. As I read these words, it was like they leaped off the page and were seared into my heart and my brain. Suddenly it was clear to me that love is a choice – an act of the will. And when we make that choice, when we decide to love, we decide to love no matter what. We decide to bear all things. We choose to believe and hope and endure all things. When we do that, when we choose to love, love indeed never ends.
I signed an anniversary card this week for Bob and Nancy Stair who will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary this Sunday, Valentine’s Day.Bob and Nancy didn’t manage to stay married for 73 years without making the intentional choice to love – and, in that love, to bear, believe, hope, and endure all kinds of things! A 73-year marriage is a thing of beauty – a thing to celebrate and marvel over. But such relationships don’t just happen. Relationships endure as a result of choosing to love, and to stay “in love”, day in and day out, in big ways and small ways.
Love is always an intentional choice. That is true whether we are talking about loving relationships in a marriage, in our families, friendships, or our relationships with one another in the church. Loving one another for better or worse, through thick and thin, is never easy. It will always involve choosing to bear with one another – to hang in there when we disappoint one another or let one another down. It will always involve choosing to believe the best about one another, even when we don’t act our best. It will always involve choosing to hope, trusting that our relationships can endure, even when they are tested and strained.
Here at Suntree UMC, our vision is to be a community that seeks to love God, love each other, and love our neighbors in extraordinary ways. It’s a tall order. It is a daunting vision because the kind of extraordinary love we hope to exhibit reflects the extraordinary, unconditional love that God has for us and that we see lived in human flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. As we talked about last week – it reflects the love that exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that we are drawn into and enabled to reflect. It is a love that unites us in relationship with one another and in mission and service to the world in the name of Christ.
But to live out that kind of love, for that vision to be fulfilled in us, we must choose love again, and again, and again. We must choose to bear with one another in love, to believe in one another, to hope and endure together even when it would be easier to walk away.
This Sunday is St. Valentine’s Day. The day takes its name from a saint of the early church, Valentine, that was martyred on February 14, AD 269. There are all kinds of legends about Valentine which make it hard to separate fact from fiction. There may have even been more than one saint by this name. But what is clear is that Valentine is remembered for his love and devotion to God, a love which he refused to renounce, and which led to his execution. Later, St. Valentine came to be associated with romantic love – owing to some of the legends that surround his life.
I know there is so much commercial hype around the day, it can seem ridiculous. But I’m all for anything that reminds us of the beauty and the gift of love in all its forms. (And I’m personally just fine with a box of chocolates and some lovely flowers from my sweetheart. Just saying.) But this week in worship, we will be reflecting on the reality that everything about who we are as a church is “All About Love”, is all about the ways that we are called to reflect the love of God in our relationships with one another and to bear the fruit of love in the world. Sunday, we will dig into Jesus' words in John 15:8-17. There Jesus says to us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” I hope you will choose to join us for worship, either online or in-person, where we will give thanks for the gift of God’s love in our lives and be challenged to choose love and to bear the fruit of love that makes a lasting difference in the lives of others.
In Christ’s love,