One love: Embracing ‘love month’ with agape compassion and empathy
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
Ah, the mythology of retail—especially this time of year. Stores start rolling out the hearts, candy, and mushy cards right after Christmas, and you can’t turn on the radio or flip through a magazine without being bombarded by jewelry-store ads trying to convince us that “nothing says I love you like diamonds.”
It’s like one big month of affection and adoration all wrapped up in dollar signs. You really can’t escape it. Most people I know spend late January or early February grumbling about so-called invented holidays or stocking up on dark chocolate and red and pink décor. Either you roll with it or resist it.
I’ve come to look at February—or as I like to call it, Love Month—as a time to celebrate all kinds of love, not just romantic. So while my husband and I do flowers and sweet trinkets (gotta keep fanning those flames), it’s also a golden opportunity for me and my family to let everyone in our world know how much they mean to us. My kids, along with all their classmates, exchange candy-laden greetings at school. My girlfriends and I swap sweet love-ya-lady messages.
“Love” and “God” are one for me. John the Evangelist defines the very essence of God as love (1 John 4:8). And in that vein, I think it’s no coincidence that Black History Month—a time to honor the achievements of African Americans, many whose great works were ignored for centuries simply because of the color of their skin—shares this season. Love means love for all, not just our families and friends. I repeat, all. Sometimes love involves acknowledging the pain of things in the distant or near past. Sometimes it’s compassion. Empathy. Kindness.
Jesus gave us two commandments that take precedence over everything: to love God with every ounce of our being, and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). We’ve known this for two thousand years now. Why, then, are our cities and communities still rife with racial tension and hate? If we strive to be Christian, that means we are committing ourselves to be Jesus-followers. And we cannot follow the Christ without following His commands. “Love others” doesn’t just mean love your spouse or your inner circle, or love people who look or sound just like you. “Love others” means stepping outside our comfortable societal-imposed boundaries to view the world through a God lens: the understanding that in Christ we are all children of God.
One of my favorite verses is from Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:26-28 NIV). We’re in this together. It doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside, what color our skin is, or what language we speak. It doesn’t matter if we’re young or old or male or female. One means one. One body, one Spirit, one God—all of us wrapped up together.
As you prepare for this year’s Valentine’s extravaganza, even you skeptics out there, I encourage you to push yourself beyond the boundaries of what we’d traditionally call love and heed our call to love all people as God loves us: with benevolence, concern, and goodwill. Love the homeless person on the corner. Love the snotty salesclerk. Love the driver who cuts you off in traffic. Put yourself in their shoes. See the world in their eyes. Try to feel their pain and their frustration for a moment, and watch how it changes you.
Maybe nothing says, “I love you” like diamonds for some. But for me, I’d much rather say I love you in more meaningful ways: by truly seeing another person, by cultivating a generous and empathetic heart, by seeking God first in my thoughts and actions toward others, and by cultivating kindness and compassion.
One love, one God, now and forever.
Jessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach.
She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate (AdvocateSC.org), the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism.
Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.