As February 14th approaches, everything Valentine greets customers in the stores. At first it is despised because most of it has been there since the day after Christmas. The week of Valentine’s Day, however, marketing intensifies.  From the moment you walk in the door, an array of desserts, icing-topped cookies and cakes, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates taunt the taste buds.  Jewelry sparkles on one display, while lacy, racy lingerie tempts from another.  Beautiful floral arrangements, shiny mylar balloons and ridiculously tacky teddy bears tease us into hoping that someone will be “surprising” us on Valentine’s Day.

Some men joke they dislike Valentine’s Day because there is so much pressure to make their wife or girlfriend happy. “Isn’t it more special,” they argue, “to be surprised with something on a regular day than to be presented with the obligatory gift on Valentine’s Day?”  I can’t speak for all women, but I would say, “Yes and no.”  I want both!

I think if we were honest, we would admit that there’s something about all this Valentine glitz that stirs something up within us.  That is this:  We want to be loved.  However, we don’t just want to know that we are loved.  We long for a demonstration of that love.

The words to a Christian song by JJ Heller have been stuck in my head this week.  It’s called “Love Me” and the words to the beginning of the chorus are:

“Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become…”

The song speaks of the longing for unconditional love.  As I’ve considered those words, I’ve realized it is probably the heart’s cry of every individual.  As a child, knowing a love without conditions enables one to flourish and to step into the world with confidence.  The desire to be loved as we are never goes away, even into adulthood.  To experience unconditional love is a need planted deep inside us.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to have that need fulfilled.

As I’ve been confronted with the surprising and the shocking in our culture, I’ve found myself studying the faces of people and thinking, “This is someone’s son or daughter.”  I wonder at the polished, the tough or revolting exterior.  I attempt to see the child within:  the child who has rejected God or denied His law written on his/her heart; the child who has been so deceived as to chase after money or fame seeking acceptance and love; the child who has become enslaved to his/her desires.    Sometimes it is extremely difficult.  Their words, their cause, their brazen and blatant defiance of convention and morality, the flaunting of “freedom” in ways that I know a Holy God detests—these all get in the way.   I confess I tend to put people in categories labeled “Hopeless” and “Beyond Reach.”  Yet these are people who need compassion; they are people who need Christ!  Others make it difficult because they are just plain time-consuming. Draining.  I want to protect myself and my family. It’s part of my job.   So I create more categories.  If I were looking through God’s eyes, I would see past all of that.  Because from the politician and the pop-star to the homeless and the helpless, everyone is looking to be loved.

It sounds so trite.  How many secular songs have been written that speak of this?  As Christians, we know that there is only One Who can truly fulfill that need within us. The song I mentioned earlier ends with Christ answering the question, “Who will love me for me?”

“I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew.”

For those that have never known unconditional love, Christ fills that void.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The love that Jesus Christ showed, an unselfish and sacrificial love, that is what we should exemplify.  Why are we so lax in showing it?  Why are we not sharing it?  Are we that apathetic?   That self-righteous?  That frightened?  Too caught up in our daily to-do list?  While the exercise of looking past the rough exteriors and recognizing the real need in people is revealing, the most difficult part is actually doing something.  I’ve had to dig deep into my own heart and ask the question:  “Am I demonstrating God’s unconditional love to people just as they are?”   I cannot just talk about it.  I cannot just hope that others come to know it.  I must show it!   There is a great need to see God’s love in action.  There is a great need to see it demonstrated in those who claim Christ as Savior.   I John 3:18 challenges us, “… let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  It’s something we can do on Valentine’s Day…or any day!