The old TV show “Kojak” staring Telly Savalas was about a bald New York City detective with a fondness for lollipops whose trademark line was "Who loves ya, baby?" I know, I am showing my age by referring to that old TV show. But his question is a good one which we all need to consider during this week which includes Valentine’s Day and which precedes the coming seasons of Lent and Easter.
Who loves you? Whom do you love? Jesus was pretty clear in his Sermon on the Mount that simply loving those who love us is not good enough. But he also taught us to love God and others, even as we love ourselves appropriately. So, who loves you? Whom do you love? Do you love yourself?
One of my pastoral counseling professors used to say, “If you are even alive today, it means somebody loved you.” He would then point to the fact that a baby is totally dependent upon others for food, shelter, clothing, and care. If anyone ever feels unloved, unworthy, or just plain lonely, he would say that we should reflect on the fact that our being alive means we have been loved. And if we have been loved at least enough to still be here today, then we are capable of both loving and being loved.
The tragic news of the death of Whitney Huston over the weekend is a reminder about appropriate self-love. We don’t yet know the cause of her death, but any observer of her career and personal life in the past two decades could see a person battling with, as she called them, her own “demons” of not loving herself. In an interview a few years ago, she actually stated that her worst demon is herself. How ironic that one of her most popular songs was called “The Greatest Love” and it indicated that” learning to love ourselves is the great love of all.”
I believe we can only learn appropriate self-love by learning about God’s love for us. We are lovable, because God loves us. We may not fit the definitions of “lovely” or “beautiful” that the world and its culture impose upon us. Not even the “super models” can be that beautiful without a lot of airbrushing! But the world’s standards do not matter. What matters is that God loves us, and therefore we are loved, we are lovable, and we are capable of loving others.
Sometimes we don’t stretch that love very far. We simply love those who love us, those who are nice to us, or those who fit our own definitions of being lovely and loveable. Sometimes we allow ourselves to believe that we are not lovely or loveable. Sometimes we even dare to think that God can’t love us because of some failure or sin or brokenness in our lives.
Not true! God loves us, and God empowers us to love ourselves, to love others, and to love even those whom we might consider an enemy.
So this Valentine’s Day, be sure to tell people that you love them. Start with yourself, expand it to your loved ones, and maybe even stretch your love to those in your life who are hard to love.
Most of all, spend some time reflecting upon God’s amazing love revealed in the coming of God’s own Son for our salvation, forgiveness, new life, and eternal blessing.
Who loves you? Lots of people, I suspect. And most of all, God loves you.