Valentine’s Day is filled with roses, chocolate, and dinner reservations. There are the elaborate surprises from notes or balloons to let someone know how much we care about them. Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to express love and appreciation. For some, this can be a pressure-filled day making sure that the right words are chosen on a card, the correct amount and particular type of flowers are selected, and don’t forget about the chocolate…and dinner!

However, on Valentine’s Day we may be tempted to use words and actions in exchange for getting something back. This ‘reward’ may simply be time together, receiving a special gift, hearing words of affirmation, or even physical affection.

This post is NOT about how to evaluate your spouse or significant other’s motives over Valentine’s Day. Rather, its a reminder to evaluate our words and actions with what true love ought to look like. Remember the apostle Paul’s words in Romans,

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (12:9)

The word “genuine” is what I have been thinking about over the last few days. It means that there is no ‘play acting’ or hypocrisy taking place. The words and actions can be taken at face value because the means and motive were for the other’s good. Simply, what you see is what you get. There is no sense of doing something in order to get what we want in return. We don’t take someone out to dinner so that we can get words we want to hear or physical touch that we desire. Rather, we may send flowers and even include a note for no other reason than to make the other person smile and feel loved.

Genuine love is difficult to give and to discern in others. If we’re honest, our motives are usually infected with selfish motives at some level. If we mine deep enough into our motives, we will discover an ulterior motive. If we discover a selfish motive as we reflect upon our words or actions, we will discover our humanity. We are faced with a decision in that moment. We can choose to ignore and overlook our motives by continuing that same pattern of giving so that we can get something in return. Or, when we feel discouraged and defeated in our attempts to love genuinely but fail, we recognize that we need help.

Conviction is the doorway opening up to the path of loving others well.

When we are convicted, we can choose to walk with humility and turn from our old way of life. We can confess that our love was not genuine and that we need help to love others the way God has loved us.

Genuine love is not simply giving without receiving in return. Genuine love remains and endures in the good, bad, and even the hostile times.

As we reflect back on Valentine’s Day, it is an opportunity to examine how we genuinely love those around us. If you recognize that your motives are infected with selfishness, praise God for that conviction. Ask Him, by His Spirit, for the grace and power to grow in genuinely loving others well. If you recognize that your motives and actions were done for the others benefit and good but still some selfish motive buried down deep, praise God. Your primary motivating force in your words or actions was the benefit of others and not your own reward. As we move toward Lent culminating on Easter Sunday, we grow increasingly more aware of the love that the Father has given to us through the sending of and the death of His Son, Jesus.