Friday, February 14, 2014

Love you, I do

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.   
-1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a

I think the idea of Valentine's is a great one-- a day to celebrate love!  How awesome is that!?  In our culture we stop and have a day in which we honor the loved ones in our lives-- mostly just our significant others... but other friends and family as well.  However, sometimes it seems that Christians forget what love is when it comes to the overwhelmingness of Valentine's Day in the world we live in today.  Now let me explain:

In our society there almost seems to be this divide that comes... are you in a relationship or are you not?  And if you are a Christian and older and single we come up with reasons for this... "God is just waiting to show you the love of your life".  "You need to work on your relationship with God more and then he will show you".  "You're too picky".  "God wants to use you as you are right now".. etc, etc.

I think there is a lot wrong with the Christian mentality over singleness.  After all, Jesus and Paul were single as far as we know... and they are the two most prominent figures of the New Testament.  Read this article if you want to read more about this.  A friend showed it to me today.  It does a far better job at saying this than I ever would.

What remains is the notion that there seems to be a division between those who have a relationship, and those who do not.

It seems that society has defined Valentine's Day by dividing people into these two categories-- the haves and the have nots.  AKA- those who consider February 14th to be a day of teddy bears, hearts, and chocolate, and then those who become more aware of their singleness, have an ever lasting resentment for all people of the opposite gender, and wait for the next day to buy cheap chocolate. 

But as Christians is that really the way that we should look at it?

Most people know that Valentine's Day is celebrated because of the life of Saint Valentine, but not many know his story.  There is much confusion around the origin around Saint Valentine.  According to The History Channel, there were several different Valentines that we could look at through church history, including a pope.  However, the guy that this holiday is said to honor was a priest who helped Christians under Claudius II.  He would marry Christian couples and help Christians to escape persecution.  For this he was eventually taken and executed.  He was stoned, clubbed, and then beheaded on February 14, 269.

Valentine's Day, which may have been invented by Chaucer in the Middle Ages in his "Parliament of Fowls", is therefore a day that we celebrate the martyrdom of a saint by eating chocolate, giving or receiving flowers, and going on romantic dates.... that seems a little odd, but that's just me.

One of the primary questions that we need to ask ourselves is, what is love?

All throughout the Bible we see examples of God's love for us.  From Genesis through creation and the ancestral narratives... we see love.  Through the quest to land in the Holy Land... we see love.  Through prophets... we see love.  Through Jesus and the Gospels... we see love.  Through Paul's love for his God and for the people of the nations... we see love.  This list is not final.  Through everything... we see love... and we see God.

In 1 John 4, we see that God is love and our definition and example of love is to come from him.  And because of that, the separation of those who have a significant other and those who don't seems irrelevant.  If Valentine's is a day of love, then I think maybe first we need to recognize the love that God has for us.  God is the embodiment of love.  In response we ought to love him.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers". --1 John 3:16
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God". --1 John 4:12
What does it mean to love other people?  

The more I think about it the more convinced I am that the modern concept of Valentine's Day is a ploy for consumerism.  Shouldn't we show our loved ones that we love them all year?  Shouldn't we show our boyfriends or girlfriends or spouses that we love them and appreciate them all the time?  We can definitely celebrate it on Valentine's day, but this is not exclusively the extent to which God is asking us to love in the Bible.  While we're celebrating our significant others, we need to remember God's love for us.  And in response of that-- our love for him and for others.

I'm thinking as I'm writing here... but what if we saw Valentine's Day not only as a day of romance, but as a day also of love for others in response to God's love for us?  In a way, isn't that what the Bible talks about?  What if churches, Christian organizations, and Christians alike served others on this day and showed them that they are loved by the epitome and the essence of love?

Since God loved us, we should love each other.  If we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  After all, God is love!  And since he first loved us, we should love our brothers and sisters in the same manner.*  

Here is a website with some little ways to volunteer.  It's kind of late for this year... but hey! there's always next! ::

*Paraphrased from 1 John 4:11, 16-21

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