For those of you who are at all romantic you will be aware that Sunday is Valentines Day and this is National Marriage Week. A week where we promote love in relationships. Yet those three little words are so easy to say yet hard to mean – I love you. For instance many of us end text messages or emails with the word “love”. Short of the boss, many rarely even think about the use of the love word at the end of messages. Somehow to not use the word seems mean or selfish somehow.
I certainly notice when people do or don’t use the word love in an email message. And I am actually careful about the use of it because I worry about what people might infer from it. Yet why this desire to shy away from such a term? And why shouldn’t we love the boss?
Jesus tells us that we should love one another just as he loves us. It is one of his repeated commandments to his followers. The greatest commandment says Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbour as you love yourself. Again and again we are instructed to love each other.
But to love each other is hard work. There are those who are easy to love but what about those who drive us up the wall. Can we truly love each other? Paul writes “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not boast, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love is not happy with evil but is happy with the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always remains strong. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NCV)
We often use this passage at weddings as if marriage is the only place that love exists. Or at least on the wedding day we assume love in marriage exists! 🙂 But Paul writes about love in the context of church life not in the context of marriage. It is true in marriage but should also be true in Christian communities. And that is something that many a church community struggles with. Love places us all on a level playing field and particularly in church communities that can be hard to deal with. Some think love should wash over all our faults and we become wishy washy, unsure of what we believe in. Or some become so regimented that the command to love becomes a legal requirement to be filled like all the other regulations.
However those in a marriage know that love cannot be wishy washy for then it becomes superficial and easily destroyed. Love that is regimented in nature becomes cold and eventually dies in routine and ritual. Love that works through issues, that finds communication and compromise at its heart, that follows Paul’s guidelines will become richer and more satisfying as time goes by. It is the same in a church community – if we are superficial in our love for each other, we are easily destroyed when troubles and conflict arise; if we are regimented we can become cold and unwelcoming. But church families that work through issues, that communicate at all levels, and yes compromise on issues that don’t affect the substance of the faith, then the commmunity becomes richer and more satisfying.
Remember love is not a human invention. The source of love is God – “Dear Friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God.” And He proved His love for us – “This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him.” (1 John 4:7,9 NCV)
It is upon God that we rely. He is the source of our love and it is to Him we should look for our example on how to live in community with each other.
So Happy Valentines Day and if you are married, may God bless your marriage and strengthen your relationship.
And in Christ, I sign off with love for you all, and pray that God’s love is at the heart of your life, relationships and church community.