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On This DayOn This Day: 365 Meditations on Holidays and Historical Events
Daily Devotions
Valentine's Day Devotion

Loving the Unloveable

By Dianne Neal Matthews

[Jesus said] "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34 (NIV)

Some authorities believe the celebration of Valentine's Day was designed to divert Christians from the pagan observance of Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival. Other experts link the custom of exchanging valentines with the old English belief that birds chose their mates on that day.

The early church had two saints named Valentine. In one story the Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade young men to marry, thinking that single men made better soldiers. A priest named Valentine disobeyed and secretly married young couples. Another version asserts that Valentine was an early Christian who made friends with children. When the Romans imprisoned him, the children threw loving notes through his cell window.

I'm not sure if I knew about the origins of Valentine's Day when I was in grade school, but I still remember the excitement of the holiday. The shoeboxes turned into "mailboxes" covered with construction paper, sequins, maybe a feather or a pipe cleaner shaped into a heart. A big oval slit cut in the top waiting for all those envelopes to be stuffed in. Going to the five-and-dime store to pick out a package of Valentines.

During my fifth-grade year, my mom let me splurge on a more expensive set. The cards were in a book of thick pages waiting to be punched out. The bigger ones had fold lines so they could be shaped in fancy ways. They all were decorated with beautiful sheen and glitter, and not the kind that comes off on your hands. I couldn't wait to get started.

As I addressed my Valentines the weekend before party day, I paused at one name on the list. Our teachers always wanted us to give a card to every classmate, but some of the kids didn't do that. As I thought about how mean one girl had treated me, I felt tempted to leave her out. After all, I'd been working my little fingers to the bone, punching and folding. Why should I slip one of these special cards into her box? I struggled all evening, but just before bedtime I addressed a card to that girl. But I have to admit it was one of the smaller ones, with not as much "bling" on it, and no folding.

Jesus talked a lot about loving others. He said the love that believers demonstrate for one another will prove to the world that we are His followers (John 13:35). He also gave a command that appears illogical and impossible from a human standpoint: We are to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27).

I have to admit that my natural tendency is to reserve my love for those who love me back. Jesus said that's no credit to me—nothing to brag about. The selfless love He described can be expressed only with supernatural help from God's Spirit. There's no way I could ever muster up the desire to do good to someone who treats me like an enemy. But I can learn to submit to the Spirit's leading and allow God's love to flow through me to that other person.

Once we experience God's lavish, unconditional love, the only reasonable response is to share it with others. When we do that, we're offering the world an undeniable witness of His transforming love and power. Love that can change hard hearts and draw people to our Savior.

Maybe we should use February 14 to reach out to those who don't come to mind when we think of valentines. We might not be ready to send them a homemade card with bling on it, but at least we can extend a smile, a friendly word, or an act of friendship.

*This material is adapted from On This Day: 365 Meditations on Holidays and Historical Events. Copyright Dianne Neal Matthews. Used by permission.

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Dianne Neal MatthewsDianne Neal Matthews is the author of four daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible (Tyndale House) and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). She also writes for websites, blogs, and compilations (including Guideposts' Mornings with Jesus). Dianne and her husband, Richard, have three children and three grandchildren, and currently live in southeast Texas. Please visit or connect through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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