Every year on the calendar, the same holiday comes around: Valentine’s Day. The day of love; as well as hearts, chocolates, flowers, and romance. This is obviously a far cry from the Church’s original commemoration of the Christian saint, in keeping with the trend of secularising Christian holidays. However, that’s not my concern in this article. Instead of looking at the past, I want us to consider the future.
I want to consider what we might reclaim from this particular cultural high day.
Looking forward, I want to consider what we might reclaim from this particular cultural high day. Since Valentine’s Day is most closely associated with love, we’re going to explore what the Bible has to say about it, particularly what the apostle John wrote.
Rescuing Love From the Romantics
It should come as no surprise to Christians to say that the world around us has no idea of what love is. When we look at their version, it’s nothing more than a hollow illusion. Our culture equates love and sex. And this lie permeates the air we breathe, even convincing many Christians that love and sex are one and the same thing; that romance is synonymous with love. The surprising thing is how many of us have bought into this idea, when we know what love is. For in his word God demonstrates and defines true love. And it looks very different to what we observe around Valentine’s Day.
What is real or true love, you ask? The answer couldn’t be clearer: “By this, we know love, that [Christ] laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).
Love cannot be about self-gain, but about the benefit of others.
That’s what love looks like: sacrificial death for someone who could never repay you. Not some fairy tale about star-crossed lovers and “true love’s first kiss.” Not “loving yourself enough” by giving yourself breaks and buying chocolates, but by dying for someone else. Thus love is fundamentally other-focused. It cannot be about self-gain, but about the benefit of others. Christ died. He laid down his life, for lost sinners. That is real love, which God defines by Christ’s demonstration of it.
Redefining Love By Christ’s Love
John continues, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). So, love grows not just in revelling and abiding in Christ’s love for us, but by the love we show towards our brothers and sisters in the faith. And how is that love shown? By laying down our lives. Through sacrifice for others, does love grow. Not chocolates, roses and sex, but by giving up ourselves and self-comfort for the benefit of others.
We don’t invest love, hoping that it’ll pay dividends. Rather it is given away.
Love could be considered in a positive sense as giving of oneself freely. Fundamentally, God’s definition of love means we don’t get to demand love. If we’ve understood it, especially Christ’s demonstration of it towards us, then we should be marked by similarly selfless action. Our understanding of love day to day—even on Valentine’s Day—shouldn’t be radically different from the love preached on Sundays. It is other-person centred, not self-seeking. We don’t invest love, hoping that it’ll pay dividends. Rather it is given away.
Recognise There is No Love Without Action
John continues his exhortation of what love looks like and, surprise, it has to do with how we act. He expands his definition of love’s action to be catering towards those in need. Those who possess the means to help—and not all of us do—and don’t, are not living in line with God’s love. John is writing truth in love (Ephesians 4:16), so that the Christian community may continue to live in line with God’s love. He wants them, and by extension all believers, to love not in just our words and blog posts, but in our actions and in the truth of Christ.
Let the world know what love is through your actions, or it will never know what love is at all.
He writes, “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed, and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18).
Love is a Christian word. The world has no idea what love is, and perhaps it’s time for Christians to start reclaiming the concept of love. Enough with the cheesy romcoms, obsessing over sex and the dramatic “I love you’s.” Let’s put away the skewed notion of love preached thunderously every Valentine’s Day. Go and let the world know what love is through your actions, or it will never know what love is at all.