Quite a few years ago, a friend received thirty-six flowers from her husband to celebrate their thirty- sixth wedding anniversary. The flowers were beautiful long stemmed roses, wrapped in green paper. She had never received flowers before and absolutely adored them. She was intent on helping them survive as long as she could. She trimmed the stems and extra leaves. She even placed them in fresh water, which she changed daily. She purchased and used special products advertised to “prolong the beauty of fresh flowers.” A couple of weeks later, she remarked to her husband about how beautiful the flowers still were after two weeks. He began laughing and pointed out that the flowers for which she had been meticulously caring were not real, but expensive silk. They were so beautiful crafted and appealing that it was nearly impossible to see that they were fake.
Flowers are not the only imposters in the world. Everything under the sun can be imitated…even Christians. Christianity is more than a name or title. It is a faith, a hope and a lifestyle. Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35).” Our faith and hope in Christ is expressed through our relationships with everyone. Real Christianity is patient and kind. It is not self-seeking but God serving. We serve God best when we support and trust one another. Ours is a faith that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres and rejoices in the truth (I Corinthians 13:1-13). This does not mean that real Christianity tolerates just anything. It means that real faith is expressed not through compliancy, but in actively pursuing and encouraging what is JUST and TRUE.
The month of February sees St. Valentine’s Day and the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. It makes it a great time for us to reflect upon our faith journey and intentionally examine the leaves and petals that make up our lives for areas in which we might become more authentic. My friend adored her husband when he brought home the flowers until she found out that they were fake. They were still jus as pretty as before, but they were not real. The beauty and glamour of the gift was found in the reality of life, not its imitation. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:13).”