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Valentine’s Day Challenge

In December, I was given an Amaryllis.  Some of you are familiar with this fascinating plant.  Others of you heard about it for the first time in my Tuesday letter on December 21st.  In that letter, I marveled at the directions that came with the plant: “No care needed.”  How could that be?  How could a plant thrive without water or soil?  The directions said that all that I needed to do was place it in the window and Enjoy!  And I did… three beautiful, long lasting white blossoms! The flowers continued to bless our family gatherings all through Christmas, even to the Epiphany.  Then sadly, they wilted and died.  I thought that was the end of my beautiful amaryllis.  But this hardy plant is not done with me yet!  There are now four buds on the top of the stalks, promising more blossoms, and more beauty for my home.  And I have done nothing to deserve this repeat performance.

The amaryllis in my kitchen is a powerful example of grace!  As Christians, we have learned that grace is unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor.  God’s grace fills our lungs with breath and causes our hearts to beat.  God’s grace splashes colors onto every sunset and inspires every creation of beauty.  God’s grace gives wisdom and skill to those trying to save lives.  God’s grace gives patience to those who are teaching our children.  God’s grace heals and forgives.  God’s grace surprises us with love.  Without God’s grace, we would find ourselves merely existing on a ball of rock circling the sun, struggling to survive the brokenness of this world.  But, with God’s grace, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. (Romans 8:37)  In Him we live, and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)  We are grateful for God’s grace; in fact, we cannot imagine life without God’s grace.
We love everything about God’s grace… except for one truth.  The Bible teaches that even those who do not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, are blessed every day with His grace.  Jesus described the breadth of God’s grace this way:  
The Father causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good,  and sends rain on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45- NIV)  
The Message captures Jesus’ teaching of grace in this way:
God gives His best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish— to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If we are honest, most of us would have to admit that we are not so sure “they” deserve God’s grace.  I know as soon as I talk about deserving God’s grace, I negate the whole idea of grace.  But still, we are not so sure that some people… “they… deserve the gift.  You and I know who is in our list of “they.”  I won’t tell you my list, and I won’t ask for yours… but we both know our list exists.  So does Jesus… that’s why he taught His challenging lesson about love: Love your enemy.  Pray for those who persecute you.

Notice that this is not a suggestion, but a command.  Jesus doesn’t give us a choice.  His call to love includes the neighbor who is our best friend, and the one who drives us crazy, even the one who has caused us harm.  And when Jesus calls us to pray for those who persecute us, he means that we should ask God to bless our enemy.  When was that last time you did that?

This Valentine’s Day, many of us did something nice for someone we love.  Last year, Americans spent 22 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day love gifts.  We sent cards and flowers, we gave candy and created special meals.  This year, I decorated cup cakes with our granddaughters to give to people we love.  Many of us look forward to the Valentine’s Day opportunity to do something special for someone special in our lives.  But what about our enemies?  Did we pray for them… did we do something nice for them… did we even think about them this year?  I know your enemy and mine does not deserve a love gift, but isn’t that the whole idea behind grace?  Perhaps this year’s Valentine’s Day Challenge is to love an enemy.

Every time I see my amaryllis plant, I know that I have done nothing to deserve the beauty it provides, and yet the flowers keep coming.  I think I was given an amaryllis to be a reminder of God’s grace and God’s call to be grace-full.

With you trying to answer the Valentine’s Day Challenge,
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