This last Valentine’s Day we were poised to celebrate love when evil struck. Unfortunately this isn’t new or unique; it is something we went through ten years ago on Valentine’s Day. This year it was a high school in Florida; ten years ago it was Northern Illinois University. The cycle of evil and violence seems to be increasing, and the heartache is indescribable.

In the wake of school shootings and other unspeakable violence the reactions and the emotions range from paralyzing sorrow to a call to “do something.” What are we to do? How can we end these types of horrific crimes and the generations of sorrow they cause? Is it even possible or is this the unavoidable result of living in a sinful and broken world?

I don’t find it a coincidence that Valentine’s Day, the day of love, has been a time when some have chosen to act out in hate by inflicting pain on others. As a nation we have been increasing our focus on individuality and failing to remind people we are part of a whole. We leave people to their own abilities to decide who they are and what their truth is. We have turned our attention and time to “finding ourselves” and have failed to learn how to love others.

The Bible teaches that we are each unique and special but that we have been created by a loving God to be a part of a whole. While we are each individuals who spend a lifetime finding ourselves, we are not lost. We are loved, created, formed, adopted by God. We are not genderless beings that need to identify ourselves; we are men and women, boys and girls created in God’s image to project the image of God to the world. We each have purpose and a calling; we are each filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered by His love, a love that led Him to lay down His life for us.

In these days after tragedies we will hear heroic stories of sacrificial love, like the football coach who gave his life to save students. These are inspirational and God pleasing. These accounts should motivate us to be sacrificial before evil strikes. If someone reached out, cared, loved, noticed, could this have been avoided? Could other acts of evil be conquered with love? Legislation, background checks, better security will be the answers the world and politicians clamor for, but God’s response to fear and evil is real love.

Love is a gift, not a feeling. Love is a gift to be given to someone who doesn’t have it. Why would we give love to someone who already has an abundance of it? Love is a gift that in its ultimate expression has us lay down our life for the sake of another. It doesn’t, shouldn’t, require a mass shooting or other horrific event for this to happen. Every day, all around us, are people who are hurting, broken, scared and overcome by evil. They don’t know who they are and don’t know they are loved by God or by us. What should we do? The answer is another question: Are we, as God’s people, going to spend more time protecting our own lives, or are we going to ask God for courage to lay down our lives for those hurting around us?