Who Do You Love?
Love is in the air. St. Valentine’s Day approaches and stores have their pink and red displays put up prominently so that men can buy chocolates and ﬂowers for their wives. Children will exchange little cards in their class parties, and oﬃces decorate their walls with hearts. It is the season of romantic love, and for good reason. History suggests that St. Valentine violated Claudius II’s edict prohibiting marriage of young people and performed the wedding ceremonies of many in secret. He was eventually found out and put to death in a most painful manner.
Was it for the sake of our modern concept of love that St. Valentine died? It seems that he believed strongly in the marital union between a man and a woman, but romance was not his primary concern. His focus was on the self-sacriﬁcing, life-surrendering kind of love that marriage is meant represent. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5, love is about giving yourself in submission and service to the one who holds your aﬀection and desire. It is focused on the other, not on self.
Post-modern society will tell us that love can be reduced to the act of sexual intercourse and everything leading up to it, but the truth is that sex is merely a manifestation of love and not love itself. In addition, sex, if it is self-serving, is not a manifestation of true love, but of unguarded passion. True love is more than the physical. True love encompasses and consumes one’s entire self. It cannot be contained, and it cannot be stopped. True love is only that which comes from God.
Marriage is the most obvious context in which we see this love manifested, but for the believer, marriage is one small part of living in the love of God. When we live in the love of God, we commit ourselves to brotherly aﬀection, extending the right hand of fellowship to one another; we respect and lift up other believers in recognition of our oneness in the family of God; and we reach out to the undeserving and the outcasts with benevolence and grace.
Dear brothers and sisters, the believing life is to be marked by love, as is exempliﬁed in the two greatest commandments. This love, however, is not limited to our friends and families. It must reach out to the outcasts, even to our enemies. As we come together on St. Valentine’s Day, do take the opportunity to love your husband or your wife, but I challenge you to ﬁnd ways to love the unlovable and show grace to the undeserving. That is the love that Jesus commands of us, and it is the love that He showed us in His life and death on the cross.
Your Servant in Christ,