February is the month of love. All over the country gifts of flowers, candies, and other tokens of affection are being purchased for loved ones. Romantic dinners are being planned, and young men are searching for the perfect ring so they can “pop the question” to the girl of their dreams. All of the accoutrements of the Valentine’s Day holiday are symbols of love. Red roses, special chocolates, and a diamond engagement ring are all ways of saying, “I love you,” but what about when the season of love has passed?
The more important expression of one’s love for another is how he or she treats that other person in the ordinary affairs of life. A man who lavishes gifts on his wife on Valentine’s Day, but treats her poorly the rest of the year, doesn’t truly love her, and his gifts do not make up for his bad behavior. The plain truth is that all of us want to receive expressions of love every day, not just on special occasions. This does not mean that we want roses and candy every day, but simply that we want to be treated with love and consideration all year round.
This fact of human nature is a reflection of the attitude that characterizes our Father in heaven, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many people openly profess their love for God, and their love for the Lord Jesus, but they tend to express it only on special occasions. This is why so many church buildings are filled to capacity on Christmas and Easter, but are sparsely filled the rest of the year. It is as though we are saying, “Lord, my devotion on these special occasions should be enough to last you throughout the year.” We do not accept this kind of devotion from our loved ones in the flesh, so why would we expect God to accept it from us?
After the Lord’s resurrection, He appeared to the eleven remaining apostles over a period of about forty days. On one of these occasions, recorded in Jn. 21:15-17, the Lord asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” In each case Peter responded that he did love the Lord. Then, in each instance the Lord told Peter to take care of His sheep. In other words, the Lord told Peter to demonstrate his love by doing what He commanded him to do. If Peter truly loved the Lord, he would obey Him.
This, ultimately, is the only way we can demonstrate our love for the Lord. It is, after all, what He Himself requires. On the night of His betrayal, after dismissing Judas to complete his treachery, the Lord told the other apostles, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). A little later He added, “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (Jn. 15:14). It cannot be expressed any more simply than this. If we love the Lord, we must do what He commands us to do, not just on the special occasions, but every day of our lives.
In practical terms, this means that there are certain things we will always do, and there are certain things that we will not do. On the one hand this means we will not conform ourselves to the world, but will be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:1-2). On the other hand, it means that we will walk in the light, even as He Himself is in the light, so the blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse us (1 Jn. 1:5-10). It also means that we will not forsake the assembly each Lord’s Day, as the habit of some is, but that we will stimulate one another to love and good deeds, encouraging each other as we see the day of His return drawing near (Heb. 10:24-25).
The Lord asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” He asks the same question of each of us today, not just during the season of love, but every day. If we truly love Him, then we will obey Him until He calls us home to heaven.