“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
John 13:35, NIV
Several months after my mother died, I found on the bush beneath her bedroom window the winter beauties pictured here. I brought them home and placed them in a bowl that had belonged to her mother. Among all of our Christmas decorations that year, there was none more beautiful than the “Empress of Winter.” Chinese tradition conveys that a camellia’s perfectly symmetrical form symbolizes the expression of long-lasting devotion.
Shortly after my mother’s death, someone asked me what one word I would use to describe her. “Devoted” immediately came to mind. Her children and grandchildren were her focus, and she always signed her cards to me …
Finding the camellias a few months after my mother’s death not only served as a timely reminder of her life-long devotion to her family, but they reminded me of my Heavenly Father’s eternal love.
Scripture tells us that because God loved us, “he gave.” He gave what was most dear to him—his only Son, Jesus (John 3:16). There was no price too great to pay as a ransom for our souls. He gave his all.
We find one of the most beautiful stories of devotion in Luke 7—the account of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, then kissed and anointed them with expensive perfume. She expressed her worship in the presence of self-righteous Pharisees who thought her unworthy of giving such an extravagant gift. To them, the gift held far more value than the woman who gave it. They saw the breaking of the flask and the spilling of the precious oil as wasteful, but Jesus saw her heart—a heart broken and emptied—one filled with repentance for a wasted life. Jesus defended the woman and forgave her sins because “she loved much.” She had given him her all.
Jesus taught that the secret of devotion is to love much. In the United States, we see much love expressed on Valentine’s Day. Even before the last of ole St. Nick is packed away, all things “love” pop up on store shelves. This heart-shaped frenzy results in the exchange of 1 billion cards in the United States alone, 50 million roses sent, 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates sold, and enough candy hearts made to stretch from Valentine, Arizona to Rome, Italy and back again. Now that’s a whole lot of love but not the “much” of which Jesus spoke.
Who are we devoted too? We’ll find our answers laced with actions. The more devoted we are to someone, the more we’ll give of ourselves in ways beyond disposable tokens given on holidays alone. We’ll empty our hearts. We’ll give our all every day of the year.
May it be said of us, “Because God loved, they loved much. They gave.”