It’s February, which means if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to make your way to the store to purchase an overpriced Hallmark card for your spouse/partner, children, or grandchildren. Don’t forget to pick up valentines for everyone in your child’s classroom, and a Dutch Bros gift card for their overworked/under-paid teacher. While you’re at it, you may as well throw in some heart-shaped sugar cookies and dark chocolate as a gift for yourself, too.
Is this the way we humans are called to express our love? I imagine if a UFO landed on planet earth for the first time on February 14, the confused and bewildered aliens who disembark from the ship might think it is. But as much as I love chocolate and cookies, I have to admit I hope there’s more to love than that.
One of the most often-cited scripture passages about the concept of love is 1 Corinthians 13, which is read at almost every modern wedding. Yet in writing that famous text, Paul had more in mind than romantic or familial love. For Paul, love – agape love – was the sacrificial and self-giving love that seeks wholeness for everybody in the world… a love that doesn’t have to be earned, and which is freely given with no conditions.
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.
What does it look like to believe those words, and to attempt (however imperfectly) to live them out in our daily lives? Such a love, it seems to me, is so countercultural it’s likely to confuse and bewilder our world. But what a wonderful Valentine it would be.
One of my favorite songs by the fedora-wearing singer-songwriter Jason Mraz is called “Love is Still the Answer.” In fact, in the world of secular music this song is as close as it comes to being my credo, or statement of belief. The final verse goes like this:
The question I’ll ask at the end of my days, is what did I give and what will I take? There’s only one answer that matters, even if your heart and your dreams have been shattered. Whatever you want, whatever you are after: love is still the answer.
May it be so, for us and for the world.
I'm a husband, father, news junkie, theatre lover, enneagram enthusiast, bi advocate, amateur foodie, wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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