No Roses But A Greater Sacrifice

He didn’t prove His love at a candlelight dinner. There were no long-stemmed roses, but there were thorns. Yes, there were thorns.

This week is the second busiest week for florists, coming in just behind Mothers Day weekend. Roses and bouquets, chocolates, fine wine, dinners out, and other romantic gestures will reign supreme. Even kids will get into the action by giving each other store-bought valentines. It’s Valentines Day!

But did you know this day was initially called St Valentines Day? So who just was this man? Valentine was a 3rd-century pastor under the rule of the Roman Empire. The church was under persecution, and the emperor also declared a blanket ban against marriage in the younger generation. He hypothesised that married soldiers would be preoccupied with their families welfare and thus be distracted from their military role. Combined with the societal norms of permissiveness and multi-partner relationships, the Christian church was having a hard go of it.

Those who steadfastly taught and followed the Biblical principles of marriage, commitment and a life-long monogamous devotion to one spouse faced ridicule by their peers. Those pastors caught marrying younger people in direct opposition to the official proclamation faced death. Valentine was one such pastor. Thrown into prison, tortured, and eventually sentenced to death, Valentine stubbornly refused to become bitter. Instead, he ministered to those around him, including one of the judges who ruled over his case. God healed the judge’s daughter through Valentine’s prayer. As a result, the judge converted to Christianity.

Valentine died a gruesome, incredibly painful and prolonged death because of his belief in the sanctity of marriage. He was willing to sacrifice his life for what he believed to be true.

In every believer’s life, there will come a time where you will at least have to lay your need to ‘fit in’ to make a stand. As a result, others might see you as a bigot, a prude, or homophobic just by stating you disagree with certain lifestyles or decisions others make that go against scripture. You might lose a few friends in the process. Family members might stop talking to you. Speaking the truth, even with love, humility, and respect, will cost you something.

As I write this, believers around the world are losing much more than a few friends for their stance to remain steadfast. The Chinese government is one again bulldozing down churches, throwing pastors and deacons into jail and confiscating bibles. There are reports of Christians being executed on trumped-up charges. Our brothers and sisters in Christ living under communist rule understand what love looks like; sacrifice,

The relentless and escalating slaughter of Nigerian Christians has been vastly ignored in North America. Kidnapped Christians are given a choice; convert to radical Islam and go free or refuse to deny their faith and die a martyr’s death. These Christians are showing what true love is by sharing the gospel with their executioners.

Love costs something. It requires a sacrifice deeper than paying for flowers that eventually wilt away. Don’t get me wrong, romantic love is a glorious thing to experience, but it falls short if it is not combined with sacrificial love. Our Saviour demonstrated such loved us with such an intimate, fiery passion that he willingly sacrificed his life so we could go free. He knew what he was about to face but counted the cost for the joy set before him.

How great is the love of God! He loved me long before I knew His name. He wooed me, chased me, enthralled me, and captured my heart. He didn’t prove His love at a candlelight dinner. There were no long-stemmed roses, but there were thorns. Yes, there were thorns.

Personal Application

Questions to ask yourself. These questions are indeed personal this week. You will need to spend some time with God, asking Holy Spirit to speak to you and search your heart for the answers.
Be brave and allow Him to show you the areas of your life where you have compromised truth out of a fear of rejection.
Have you have excused selfishness by renaming it ‘self-love?’ Loving ourselves is essential, yes. However, the Bible does call us to prefer others above ourselves.
Is it possible to place respectful boundaries while expressing sacrificial love?
Do you expect others to demonstrate their love to you in a manner you are not willing to express to them? Are you ready to go the extra mile even when it is not convenient? Are you willing to sacrifice your time and your right to be right?
What does it mean to speak the truth in love?
How do you practically walk the line between unconditional love and taking a stand for biblical truths?
Do you disguise codependency as unconditional love? I think this definition from Wikipedia does an excellent job of describing codependency. “Codependency is a behavioural condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.”

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Until Next Week,

©2020 Katherine Walden