To the chagrin of some and the delight of others, today is Saint Valentine’s Day! According to Wikipedia, it is the day “recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world.” Whether one believes in celebrating the day or not, one cannot help but see and hear the commercializing aspect as there are reminders everywhere leading up to the day; reminders prompting us to action. Regardless of the state of one’s relationship, there is “pressure” to do the obligatory and in some cases the expected dinners, purchase of roses and other gifts to show our love to those we deem significant. Not only is it a celebration of romantic love, but a celebration of love itself as families and friends join in.
Yet one could argue that we should not need a specific day to celebrate and to show love. When in the right relationships, every day should be Valentine’s Day; we should always be showing and celebrating love and respect to and with the people we hold dear in our lives. To do so doesn’t necessarily have to cost an “arm and a leg” because while dinners, roses, gifts, and “I love yous” are often seen as tangible and practical demonstrations of love and affection, they do not necessarily reflect what is truly in one’s heart. Especially on a day like today that carries so many anticipations and expectations. To be indifferent to the day or not do as expected, whether one can afford it financially or not, could produce some very undesirable relationship outcomes for many.
But what does real and unconditional love look like? It is more than we are made to believe; more than we often realize. In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul gives us a very beautiful and practical picture: “Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]” (vv. 4-8a, AMP). It is not easy to love others – spouses, significant others, family members, friends – like that. It takes intentionality, purposefulness, and special grace to look past individual faults. If we fail to love and show love in such ways, do the dinners and whatever else make up for it?
The real test for today is not whether we remember to buy and do the things we are expected to, as important as some think they might be, but whether or not we are loving and showing love to the people in our lives in the ways stated in the Scriptures. Because long after Valentine’s Day is past, gifts are exchanged, and candles are put out, the challenge to show love in practical and meaningful ways continues. Just as God did not simply say “I love you” but demonstrated that love in the most practical of ways, so we are expected to demonstrate our love in ways that leave no doubt. I believe the greatest gift we can give our loved ones today is the kind of love set out in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. How about we commit ourselves to loving them like that? And show them.