Love is in the air…or so the card companies would like us to believe!
Valentine’s Day is this Sunday. It was named for one or more Christian martyrs, and established by the Pope in the latter part of the 5th century – so it’s been around for a long time.
When I was in elementary school, the tradition was that valentines were shared among classmates. My parents encouraged me to prepare a valentine for each of my classmates, so that no one would feel left out. Not every parent gave the same dictum, however, because I can remember the hurt I felt when I realized that some of my classmates had given other people valentines but had omitted me. None of us likes to be excluded, perhaps especially when we are young and formative.
When people ask me why I don’t buy flowers for my wife on Valentine’s Day, I just say, with a wink and a smile, that Protestants don’t celebrate saints’ days. But what I really mean is that I try to make every day a day to celebrate my love for my wife. There are some days that I don’t likely do a very good job of that, but I endeavour to make sure that my wife knows I love her deeply and passionately each day. I don’t need a special day to recognize that.
I read a saying the other day: “Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love makes the ride worthwhile.” Love, given and received, is not what makes life worth living, but it certainly enriches the life we live.
But how do we love? How can we love? That’s the deeper question.
John writes to his community about the sacrificial love of God in Christ and says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4.19, NIV). We can only experience love among others – given or received – in its fullest sense when we have experienced the love of God for us. No one can say that God does not love him or her, because God’s love is for all, as prevalent as the air we breathe. Many people can, however, say that they do not love God. When they have chosen not to accept, to apprehend for themselves, the love of God, they cannot experience love to its fullest.
When people choose not to receive the love of God, God feels the pain; like missing that valentine in elementary school caused me pain, God is pained by those people he created who spurn his love. He wants our love, even though he doesn’t need our love to sustain his existence. And God knows what is best for us; when we receive his love, that is what makes life worth living. God’s love does make the world go round.
As you celebrate Valentine’s Day this weekend, in whatever way you prefer to mark it, let the love of God be what fuels your love. You’ll never be the same!