Perhaps, like me, you remember your mother acquiring a pack of silly cards for you to pass out to your grade school class for the Valentine’s season. Or maybe you remember your junior high or high school promoting a carnation fund raiser whereby one could purchase carnations for fellow students that they liked. I recall those years, going through the hallways with my hands empty as others carried full bouquets of white, pink, and even red carnations that they had received. I always hated that season. However, I’m not looking for pity for the past, because I am very happily married now. I would much rather experience living love now each day, than having only memories of carnations to hold on to. (Keep that in mind if you are a teenager now.)
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that can provoke a wide range of expressions. For some, it is a day to publicly celebrate the love of their life (or the current love of their life). For others, Valentine’s Day is a day to publicly express feelings of bitterness and jealousy over not having a current love of their life. And still for others, the holiday is nothing but a mechanical obligation that must be observed in order to keep the peace.
In short, the Valentine’s celebration is an entire holiday surrounding the idea of love… or at least some version of it. The thing is, do we really know what love is? There are many people who talk about love these days, but have little problem directing hatred towards those with whom they disagree. These people often act as though they are an authority on love and yet fall far short of love’s genuine display. We should really contemplate how such fickle creatures as humans could possibly hold the corner market on love.
Perhaps the most arrogant display of love-expertise that is touted is when a society who ignores God, for the most part, then declares what God means by commanding us to love. I recently saw a comic online depicting Jesus speaking with some preachers. The caption read, “The difference between Me and you is you use Scripture to determine what love means and I use love to determine what Scripture means.” The statement is actually true. The flaw in the comic was its application as some sort of rebuke towards the preachers or Christians in general.
God is love; that’s what 1 John 4:8 tells us. He is love. God doesn’t just know love, He is the actual personification of love. Therefore, God’s word is spoken from the One who is love. However, we are not love nor do we fully comprehend love, so we need to read and study His word to properly determine what love really is. If we try to use our skewed understanding of love to determine what the Scripture is saying about love, we end up perverting love into some sort of abomination of man-made design. We must look to God to properly apply love, not take our version of love and apply it to God.
Human beings will mask all kinds of things under our perversion of perfect love, which is personified in the nature of God. Adultery is often excused as love (and indeed, an adulterous couple may have actually fallen in love), but adultery is still a sin. Feelings of love don’t sanctify the sin and make it pure before God. And such are many things which we try to cleanse by applying the label of love, but they are based on our version of love and not God who is love.
Truly, there are many things that human beings love which God despises. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, italics mine)
If one considers the way that a child perceives love, we begin to gain a picture of how we pervert love. A child often views love as being given permission to do whatever they wish. Nearly every child throughout history has at one point believed that their parents hated them simply because they were denied license to act on their impulses. Of course, parents understand that real love sometimes mean saying no. Unfortunately, though we mature, we do not always lose that warped concept of love; we only transfer it to God. Therefore, if God says no or if God’s word declares some action we love to be a sin, we throw a temper tantrum (albeit a mature, adult temper tantrum) and basically declare that God’s word is promoting hatred. Once we feel like that, there are only two options; reject God’s word or “reinterpret” His word to make it say something else (i.e., using our version of love to interpret Scripture).
There is much more that can be said, but I shall end with the following thought: If you really want to know what love is, study God, study the Life of Jesus Christ – and study without a preconceived idea about love. You will find that love is merciful and kind. You will find that love treats the least with as much value as the greatest. You will also discover that love rebukes and corrects and has a definite standard of absolutes. Love, you will find, is also not a feeling, but it is often an act of one’s will that at times actually defies our feelings. Above all, you will discover that love will honor God and His high and holy standard. True love will never compromise that for the ever-changing standards of men.
Now, allow me to encourage you to go out and treat someone you love to a cup of coffee… or maybe someone who could use some love today. Happy Valentine’s season!
Until next time, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.