With Valentine’s Day behind us, rose petals falling and the chocolate running out, let’s take a second look at how we use the word “love” these days.
To describe our feelings for a dog, a daughter, a dad, a deity, or the décor in our home, the word “love” often comes to mind. It doesn’t matter how deep our commitment is, we just love it! Even if something does not exist, we can still “love” it (or “her” as in the case of a football player recently).
Remember the phrase, “as long as we both shall live?” Many couples now prefer, “as long as we both shall love.” Then, as the chocolate goes to the hips, the hair goes down the drain and feelings fade; so goes the “love” and the marriage. As Crystal Gayle used to sing, “Too many lovers [and] not enough love these days.”
Christian love is something else. It’s all about commitment and it leads you straight into a life and death conflict with evil. For Jesus, this was no accident: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8). This was no walk in the park.
Real love and evil cannot co-exist in peace. Jesus said, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12). Thus, his all-out war on evil was actually a crusade for love. He was willing to suffer loss or pain on behalf of others. If you are wondering how a good God could permit suffering, take a second look at Jesus. God not only permitted pain for His Son but planned it! The devil understood this and tried to tempt Jesus with some less painful approaches to life. But Jesus chose the way of self-denying love and it cost him dearly.
Three centuries later, the Roman Emperor Claudius II personally interrogated a follower of Jesus named Valentinus to persuade him to convert to Roman paganism, or die. He not only refused but he tried to convert the emperor to Christianity. This cost him dearly too. The price of candy, flowers, Hallmark cards or even diamonds on Valentine’s Day pales in significance to the price St. Valentine paid for his faith.
Real love is defined by suffering which it willingly accepts in its battle against evil. Love is costly because sin and evil are popular and powerful this side of heaven and love cannot rest easy with that. This is why parents discipline their children. It’s why God sent Jesus to earth on a painful mission of love. It’s also why believers put on spiritual armor and stand up to evil—in that order!
The greatest love stories of all, from Jesus to St. Valentine, portray the high cost of love. Jesus said, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19). After commanding us to love each other, he added, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18).
Christian love calls for moral courage and an undying trust in Jesus who promised: “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22).