By Lori Wildenberg, Crosswalk.com
What do defying the law, performing secret weddings, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, conversation attempts, and martyrdom have in common? They are all attributed to the multiple legends surrounding Saint Valentine, a Roman priest who was beheaded in the third century on February 14th.
Narratives tell of Valentine being jailed because he practiced Christianity in a pagan world and even attempted to convert the Emperor. Additional stories tell of Valentine healing the sick and restoring sight to his jailer’s blind daughter. The legend ends with Valentine writing the young woman a letter signing it Your Valentine, just before he was executed.
The origin of Valentine’s Day is rooted in strong faith and great love. A love that courageously chooses God’s law over man’s. Love that speaks life to the staunchest unbeliever. Love that is powerful enough to heal. Love that is demonstrated in action and conviction, not just words.
This is the love that caused St. Valentine to lay his life down for what he believed. Love, plus obedience, was the force the brought Jesus to the cross.
Valentine’s Day has come to be a day where we show affection and appreciation for family and friends. This day has the potential to be so much more than flowers, chocolate, and warm fuzzy feelings. It can be an opportunity to reflect God’s big supernatural love; a love full of grace, mercy, justice, truth, forgiveness, joy, and commitment. Love that is patient, kind, content, humble, unselfish, self-controlled, forgiving, protective, enduring, hopeful, and everlasting. In our homes we can celebrate the amazing love God has for us on Valentine’s Day and beyond. Here are 10 ways parents can use Valentine’s Day to teach children about God’s love.
Love is grace.
The gift of salvation is God’s grace given to us. Grace is a gift we give someone else even though they may not deserve it. Grace isn’t earned, it is freely given—no strings attached.
Challenge your family members to look for ways to grace another: Hold the door for someone whose hands are full, allow another to get into line ahead of you, do a job around the house that isn’t typically yours. After the grace-filled action is done, take a ball of string. Unravel it about 1 foot. Have each child hold an end, tell how they graced each other, and cut the string. Grace is a no strings attached gift. That’s how God loves us, without strings.
God's love is mercy.
God shows His love for us by giving us mercy and compassion. St. Valentine showed compassion to his jailer’s daughter by healing her blindness, even though he knew he was going to be executed.
To help your children understand the concept of mercy, find opportunities to participate in acts of service for those in need. Your kids could shovel the driveway for an elderly neighbor, bring dinner to a sad or grieving friend, or create a manna bag to give to a homeless person (soap, grocery gift card, toothbrush, toothpaste, crackers, socks, a water bottle) and hand it out the car window. Kindness, mercy, and compassion draw us to other people. The mercy and compassion God has shown us can motivate us to bring Him glory by paying it forward. The kindness of God pulls us close to Him.
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God's love is justice.
Jesus righted wrongs. He took action when He saw injustice, like His reaction to the injustice of the money changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12).
We can encourage our kids to keep their eyes open for injustice that may be occurring at their school. Role-play a few situations your child may encounter: a child being picked on during recess, a student sitting by himself at lunch, or a group of kids gossiping about another. Discuss actions that could be taken to remedy the wrong. Talk about how we are made in God’s image, and therefore all people are worthy of respect.
God's love is truth.
Love is truth and love speaks truth. Truth is freedom to experience the fullness of God’s love. Titus 1:2 says that God does not lie.
Play a game with your child called True and False. Make two signs. One that says “true,” the other “false.” Speak some true statements and some false statements. Have your child hold up the card that matches the statement. Say, “God loves us. He always tells us the truth, He cannot lie. Jesus says He is the way, the truth, and the life. God says you are beloved, you belong, you are precious, chosen, created in His image on purpose for a purpose.” Next, write these words that speak about identity in Christ on individual note cards. Tape them to the mirror while saying, “God is a truth teller and this is what He says about me!”
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God's love is forgiveness.
The depth of God’s love is demonstrated in His forgiveness. Forgiveness restores our soul and cleanses us. Forgiveness sets us free from bitterness.
Have a conversation about a person who has hurt you. Write the person’s name on a piece of paper. Take the hurt to God. Pray a prayer of forgiveness. “Lord, give me a heart that wants to release my pain and freely forgive. Because you, Lord, have forgiven me, I will forgive________.” Then burn or shred the paper.
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God's love rejoices.
“He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17d. The God of the Universe, the Creator of all creation rejoices over us with singing! The love God shows for us is filled with joy.
Turn on some favorite Christian worship music in the car and have a car concert or a singing and dancing party in your home. Rejoice with God through song and dance. God loves His children and joy really is the serious business of heaven.
God's love is...
The best definition of how God loves us is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Read verses 4-8a aloud.
Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a again but replace the word love with Jesus. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud.Jesus does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails. Following that insert God and then the Holy Spirit.
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God is with us.
God wants us to know He is always with us. Just as He led the Israelites with a cloud during the day and fire at night, He is there day and night, never slumbering, for us. In the hard times God is beside us to provide comfort. He rejoices with us in the happy moments.
To make the message of “I am with you” tangible, try these approaches: play peek-a-boo with the little ones. Say, “Here I am” rather than “peek.” Set a place at the table for Jesus, our invited yet unseen guest. Play the trust game, where one person is blind-folded, another stands behind the blind-folded person to catch that person when He falls backwards. Even when we can’t see God, He is there. He sees us, loves us, and is with us.
God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask.
God demonstrates His love for us by giving us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is available to those who ask, seek, or knock (Matthew 7:7-12). His love is poured into us through the Holy Spirit, His love causes us to love one another. God doesn’t play tricks on us. He wants to give His children good spiritual gifts.
Hide a bottle of olive oil, which represents the Holy Spirit, behind a door. Play Hot or Cold to find the oil. As the children get closer to the hiding place, they are getting hotter. Once they get to the door, read Matthew 7:7. Wait and see if they will knock. Once the child knocks, open the door and hand him the bottle of olive oil. Discuss how like the olive oil, God is there waiting to be a part of our lives, He is waiting to be invited so His gift of the Holy Spirit can be received.
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God’s love makes us His children.
1 John 3:1 calls believers children of God. His love for us brings us into the family of God. We are chosen and adopted by Him. God’s love is not dependent upon our behavior or our faithfulness. He loves us unconditionally. We can’t make Him love us more or love us less. His love never changes or ceases, it is steadfast. He shows us His love through His son Jesus Christ. Paul says in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Love is who God is. It is His nature. The gift of salvation reveals His love. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Cut out a heart for each individual family member. Write each person’s name on a heart. Get a lock and label it “God.” Put a hole in the top of each heart and attach all the hearts to the lock. Close, secure the lock, throw away the key. Then say, “Nothing can separate God from the love He has for ______ (speak each family member’s name).
1 John 4:8 tells us, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Scripture tells us our God is love. The cross is the place where the greatest act of love occurred. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” This is great news. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Lori Wildenberg, national speaker, licensed family and parent educator and parent coach, is passionate about helping families build connections that last a lifetime. She is the author or co-author of five books. Lori’s most recent book The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connection was recently released. She loves working with moms and dads to assist them in their quest to be the best parent they can be. Lori and her husband Tom have four young adult children. You can find Lori on Facebook and on Instagram. For more information or to sign up for Lori’s weekly Eternal Moments blog go to loriwildenberg.com .