February has often been called the month of love with the giving of flowers, candy, and cards expressing one’s love for another. Though there are many ways to express one’s love for another, the following story gives us a better perspective on what love is really all about.

Years ago, a group of school boys had a new teacher come to their school. He was a young man, just graduated from college, and a fine Christian. Upon starting his first day at the school, he told his class that in order to have a good school, there had to be rules to follow. He asked them to help establish rules for the school.

One student shouted, “No stealing;” another, “No cussing;” and another, “No lying.” After several minutes, ten rules were written on the chalk board. “Now then,” said the teacher, “We have a set of rules, and for a rule to have meaning there must be a penalty for those who break them.” At that one of the students shouted, “Ten licks across the back without a coat on.” The teacher asked, “That’s a pretty harsh punishment; are you all sure that is what you want?” “Yes, yes,” the class answered! With their rules and punishment in place, school began.

About a week later, the bully of the class, big Tom, found his lunch missing. A search was made to find the thief. After a few minutes, a skinny little poor child named Timmy was questioned. He confessed that he had in fact taken big Tom’s lunch, telling the teacher that he had not had anything to eat for three days. This boy’s mother was a widow and doing her best to provide for her four children, but often there was little to eat.

Uncomfortable at the situation but knowing that the rules had to be followed, the teacher called Timmy to the front of the class and told him to take off his coat. Little Timmy pleaded with the teacher, “Please don’t make me take off my coat. Lick me all you want, but please don’t make me take off my coat.”  The teacher replied, “Timmy, you helped make up the rules and their punishment; now you must obey those rules; so take off your coat.” Trembling, Timmy slowly removed his coat, and to the surprise of the class and teacher, Timmy was wearing only a ragged T-shirt half torn to shreds. With great sympathy, the teacher looked at Timmy and cringed at the thought of punishing him so severely.

Just then big Tom spoke up, “Teacher, can someone take the place of another for the punishment?” The teacher replied, “Yes, there is a law written in the Bible that one can be a substitute for another.” And with that, big Tom came forward and took off his coat, “I’ll take his licking.” When the teacher brought down the rod for the fourth lick, he noticed the entire class in tears. Timmy had put his arms around big Tom’s neck and was telling him, “Big Tom, thank you for taking my whipping for me; I’ll remember this for the rest of my life!”

Genuine love is a sacrificial love. Paul declared in Romans 5:8 the extent of God’s love for us, “But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” As believers, we should daily remember the cross and follow little Timmy’s example by saying, “Thank you Jesus for taking the punishment I deserve; I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

To His Glory,

Pastor Bill