Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hey, Bro! Be My Valentine?

This is a revised version of an article I originally wrote for a church men’s group newsletter around 1997 or 1998. For any female readers, this post is not for you! This area is temporarily a godly guys-only clubhouse.
Love is a many splendored thing. It makes the world go round. It’s in the air. It’s all we need. It was the name of a boat and TV show. And in February, it’s a red, pink, and white buy-it-at-the-store thing.

February is the love month and the 14th is a day all husbands and boyfriends better have something mooshy and sincere planned for the woman in their life.

The consequences for not? Well, we don’t even want to go there.

In grade school we exchanged valentines with our classmates. The girls would giggle and gawk to see which boy gave the more expressive cards to which girl.

Us guys would just stuff all the cards blushingly into a paper bag and not look at them until we got home alone in our rooms. And then we would never later admit that we looked at them at all.

In fact, as boys, our role dictated we view the whole sordid hubbub of Valentine’s Day with disdain and annoyance.

And, as guys, the only affection we displayed toward each other was the loving punch carefully aimed at the tenderest part of our best friend’s upper arm.

We were guys. We were tough. True love hurt.

Secretly, though, we examined every card carefully, looking to detect even the slightest hint that one of the cuter girls might find us of interest. But the only card we cared about was the one from that girl whose name we could not speak without a stutter.

We also looked for clues to determine if any of the popular boys considered us an ally.

If someone in the class had failed to give us a card, our little man’s heart was broken. For about ten minutes. Then we went out to play.

That was then. This is now. We’re big guys. We’re still tough. And true love still flummoxes us.

Especially when it revolves around other guys.

Love is a critical element of our Christian walk.

In the NIV, some variation of the word is used in some 696 or so verses. Of faith, hope, and love, Paul declares love as the greatest attribute for Christians to possess. Jesus declared that the greatest law was, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ … And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

Further, He commanded that we love one another—brother to brother—just as He loved His disciples. He gave the world the mark by which to measure the genuineness of our faith: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). If love is the badge of a Christian, it must be seen.

That we are called to love as Christians is pretty easy to accept. And it’s a bit easier to express love toward wives and children. But it’s when love moves beyond these boundaries of immediate family that we guys often begin to get a little squooshy in the knees and brain-fogged over what to do with it. Yet, God "has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:21).

We need to love our Christian brothers, just as we need to be loved by them. The benefits of love are many:
  • Love unifies: "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:14).
  • Love is tangible: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3: 18).
  • Love is redemptive: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).
  • Love refreshes: "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints" (Philemon 1:7).
  • Love shields: "But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet" (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
And of course: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

So, now what?

Well, without application, truth is impotent. Without expression, love is useless. At a minimum, no Christian man who is part of a body of believers should ever go indefinitely without hearing the words "I love you" spoken with sincerity and offered with a hug from another Christian brother. None should feel unloved.

Beyond this, we merely need ask, "What would Jesus do?" Look at how He related to His disciples: He sought them out, trusted them, encouraged them, taught them, listened to them, spent time with them, reprimanded them, forgave them, believed in them, challenged them, stood by them, gave Himself to them.

1 Peter 1:22 states, "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." The Greek word used here is philadelphia, which means fraternal affection, brotherly love in the sense of kindness, or love of the brethren.

Why not express some brotherly love by sending a note of encouragement, making a phone call, helping a buddy with a task, doing lunch, or just hanging out with one of the guys? In fact, pick a "guy of the month" to lavish love on.

Ask the Holy Spirit to speak new ideas into your heart and mind for helping your love find tangible expression.

In the meantime, "Yo, dude! Yeah, you! Git over here an’ lemme give ya a hug. I love ya, ya big lug!"

But no punching!

Love is manly, but it really doesn’t always have to hurt!

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As a guy, are there other Christian men in your life that you know love you? That know you love them? How has the love of your brothers in the Lord been an encouragement to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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