Roses are red, violets are blue, I like you, do you like me too? Roses are red, violets are blue, and you’re lucky indeed, to be loved just for you! Do you remember those first silly valentine cards you wrote and exchanged in grade school? Do you remember how important it was to get one from that “special” person? Do you remember how hurt you could feel if you didn’t get one from that special someone? Valentine’s day, a day set aside to tell those you love how important they are and that you do indeed, love them. Here we are again with that day fast approaching. However much we talk about how commercialized it is, still it does seem to be a pretty good idea to have a special day set aside to remember to tell people that you love them.
Tradition has it that Valentine's Day has it origins during the rule of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Claudius it seems was trying to encourage men to join the army without much success. He concluded that one thing that prevented them from joining was their families. So, Claudius outlawed marriage! Now there was a priest named Valentine who refused to obey Claudius’ ban on marriages. Eventually he was caught, imprisoned and executed. On the day of his execution, Feb. 14, he wrote a kindly maid servant a brief note and signed it “From your Valentine”, and a tradition was born. Love it seems could not even be done away with by the emperor!
Love. One dictionary describes it as a “strong affection” or “warm attachment” for another arising out of kinship or personal ties. Psychologists often refer to it as an emotional state. The world is full of descriptions and wonderful stories about love. It has been the subject of many poems, songs and popular pieces of literature, Romeo and Juliet for example. However, perhaps no words are more familiar or more instructive than the words of I Corinthians 13, penned by the Apostle Paul so many years ago. Recall if you will a portion of that famous text.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things,
believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Implicit and explicit in this text are some common sense instructions about love and loving. First, if love is to be patient and kind, one must come to the conclusion that loving takes time. The term “road rage” is a popular description of people in a hurry on the road who go to extremes to get where they are going and fast. This time crunch leads to at least angry words and sometimes-even more. To love someone involves a commitment of time and energy, without it, patience and kindness are difficult to come by. There are 168 hours in a week.... How much of that time goes to the ones you love?
Next, we see that “love is not jealous or proud.... arrogant or rude.... does not insist on its own way.... is not irritable or resentful.” Lumped together, these descriptions tell me that love is humble, unselfish, and respectful. Love is concerned about the other not because it has to be but because it chooses to be. Not out of obligation but out of desire. Not out of a sense of emptiness but out of a sense of fullness. Love is open to the desires, thoughts, and dreams of the other and love respects that which it loves. At BCH, we see how important it is for children, out of love to respect their parents and parents, out of love, to respect their children. It is difficult to love that which we do not respect. Respect communicates value. We value those we truly love.
A third dimension of love in Paul’s description is justice...”love does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right.” These instructions remind us of the social dimension of love. We are all familiar with the prayer: “Dear God, bless me my wife, my son, his wife, us four, no more, AMEN. While this old saying is an attempt at humor, it does remind us of the tendency to narrow the limits of love to only an individual dimension, forgetting the Biblical emphasis on community and fellowship. Authentic love is concerned about right and wrong.... for ourselves and others.
Another characteristic, “love bears all things” reminds us that no true loving is possible without forgiveness. If love is to last, forgiveness must be in abundant supply. If love is to escape the resentfulness mentioned earlier, if love is to be kind, then we must practice forgiveness. This is important for at least two reasons. First, sooner or later, we are going to be the ones in need of forgiveness. To forget that is to make ourselves into the perfect people we are not! Second, it is hard to overestimate the amount of love that forgiveness generates. True forgiveness, given to one who understands the need of it, can result in a deepening sense of love and appreciation that would be hard to get any other way.
As Paul moves toward the end of this practical description of love, he reminds us that “love believes all things and hopes all things, endures all things.” In other words, love has to do with trust and an outlook toward the future. “Believes all things”, is not meant to be a naïve, shallow instruction. It reflects Paul’s understanding of Christian community and the importance of trust and confidence in one another. Paul here is speaking about avoiding the skepticism and cynicism, so frequent in our time that are incompatible with Christian love. Further, Paul expects love to have a forward looking, not an over the shoulder, approach to life. Love “hopes all things.” On a daily basis we see how important hope is in the lives of those who are hurting and trying to heal. Believing and hoping are indispensable qualities in moving beyond the pain and toward recovery and health.
Finally, love “endures all things.” Simply put, “Love is tough.” Paul is not describing some superficial romantic idea of love. Paul lives and works in the real world and any love that is useful will be tough and persistent. Paul himself had some practice at loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable and “enduring.”
So, what is love? A commitment of time in a humble, unselfish, respectful manner. Relating to others in a way that recognizes love and justice as inseparable. Understanding that love must include generous doses of forgiveness and trust. Knowing that love is a forward looking venture, which is tough enough to experience the bumps and bruises of everyday living and still survives.
So this Valentine's Day in the midst of candy and roses, remember a little more about love and remember that at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, we are representing you to families and children who need that kind of love. It is my hope that you will feel the joy and peace that comes from being embraced by God’s grace and love this Valentine's Day. Thank you for sharing His love with others on this special day and every day. May God’s blessings of love be showered on you this special day. Happy Valentine's Day!