On Friday we will celebrate Valentine’s Day, a celebration of the greatest of all human attributes. There is the love between husband and wife, love of a mother and father for a child, love of citizens for their country, a love of beauty and truth, a love of God and love from God. As one writer said, love has as many shades as there are moments in eternity.
While love from God came last in my list, all the other myriad facets of love would not exist without his love. His love came first, and without it would be darkness.
Another way to say this is that all the richness that comes to us from love is possible only because of the goodness of God. His love as a father for each of us is infinite and eternal. He is the giver of great gifts, of life, of moral agency to choose for ourselves, of a remarkable and beautiful planet. His greatest gift was his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.
In what way was that a gift? The mortal life and ministry of our savior is one of the world’s greatest treasures. He showed us God’s love and what it means to follow in a way that we could understand.
As inestimable a gift as that is, this was not the greatest part of the God’s love. The greatest part came in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ in which he voluntarily suffered for every sin, every sickness, every bruise that was given or received for all humanity, one soul at a time. The suffering from the crucifixion, as horrible and intense as it was, was nothing in comparison to that weight of suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane for us.
God’s love, as manifested through his son’s sacrifice, means that forgiveness and renewal are not only possible, but within reach. He paid the price of justice so that mercy could hold sway. This is the Gospel, the good news.
As one apostle said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or distance from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”
We reflect that light and love by seeking and receiving God’s forgiveness and, just as importantly, extending our forgiveness to all those around us.
God’s love fills us when we give as we have received.
Charles W. Holland is the bishop of the State College First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.