Today we celebrate Valentine’s Day! Every store is filled with cards, chocolates, flowers, and stuffed animals to purchase so we can all be sure to let our loved ones know how much we care for them. We really love Love, don’t we? There is no end to the number of poems and songs that have been written and sung about love. Is is the great theme through the ages, and just about everyone recognizes our deep desire to love and be loved.
The best movies - the ones that go on to be called classics and that many will watch even tonight - involve the concept that there is something deep and profound called true love. This special kind of love is so powerful that nothing can stop it - not money or time or even death. Many enduring childhood stories reflect this search. Old fairy tales like Cinderella, or Beauty and the Beast, or Snow White all bear witness to the idea that true love is something real and transformational.
Of course, this means that there is a lesser thing, also called love, that is not as powerful at all. We could call it false love. This imposter is very often selfish and fleeting. Sadly, it is also sung about and portrayed in countless songs and movies - a “love” that only means taking and leaving. It means that someone is satisfying some kind of appetite - be it lust or power or influence or acceptance - but will only stay as long as that appetitie is being satisfied. Is is nothing less than tragic to watch the toll false love has exacted on our society. This kind of love is not love at all, and it leaves a great trail of wreckage and confusion in its wake.
Unfortunately, we are limited in the English language by the fact that we have but one word to describe such a wide range of meaning. I can say, “Oh, I love this shirt,” and mean that I really appreciate the fit and fabric and think that it looks nice. You might say, “”I really love football,” and by it mean that you enjoy watching games and keeping track of the different players and their statistics, and even that you will arrange your weekend schedule as often as possible to accomodate watching entire games. But this same word to describe how we feel about clothing or a hobby is the only word we have to describe our relationship with the people who are most important to us in life. No wonder there is such confusion about what true love actually is.
If only there was something we could look to and say, “This is love!” How wonderful it would be if we could teach our children and encourage one another with a beautiful model and picture of what true love actually is. I am sure that many well-meaning people are unclear on what love is because they are not aware that there is actually a standard - but there is...
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. -1 John 4:10
It is not just sentiment or rhetoric - it is reality. God is love, and we can see what that looks like because Jesus came down and showed us. True love is not selfish, but selfless. True love is not taking, but giving. True love is just like God, and the Apostle Paul explained this love beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” It isn't a myth or an impossible dream. True love is real through Christ.
So, what does true love look like in someone other than Jesus? Can regular people live in such a way that true love flows through their lives and impacts others?
I can think of many great examples in history, but none better (considering the day) than St. Valentine himself. Little is known about this man or his life, except that he was a Christian priest in Rome in the middle AD 200’s. Tradition says that St. Valentine stood up for biblical marriage against the vast Roman Empire, which was against marriage in fear that it made its young soldiers weaker. Valentine was put under house arrest, and during that time prayed for his judge’s daughter to be healed. Jesus opened her blind eyes, and the whole household became Christian. The day we are celebrating in his name, February 14, is the day that he was martyred by the Roman government for refusing to denounce his faith in Jesus Christ. Legend says that before his death, he sent a note of encouragement to the judge's daughter signed, "from your Valentine."
Far from being a day to celebrate cheap love that only takes from its object, this is a day to celebrate real, true love - love that would give its very life for its object. I pray that the great love of God would be renewed today in your heart and in your relationships. May your life be a light that shines brightly with the true love of Jesus to the lost and broken all around you.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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