It’s Not Love

February 14th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

I went to the local grocery store last week and of course they had gone all out with the Valentine’s Day display. What struck me was that along with flowers and candy, almost half of the presentation consisted of various kinds of alcoholic beverages. I thought then it was a bit odd but upon reflection not really, because it does fit with our cultural notion of “love.”

Now I’ve got nothing against romance or romantic love. Neither does the Bible. If you are looking for verification of that fact you ought to read the Song of Songs in a translation you can readily understand. You will be left with little doubt. But I think that the biblical vision of romantic love is as an (one, single) aspect of the greater love that binds people to each other and to God. In contemporary culture the totality of the representation of “love” is contained in the artifacts of this largely profit motivated “holiday.” And little can help that along better than adult beverages. “Liquor is quicker,” as they say.

What does love look like? Pink hearts and valentines. Flowers and candy. Wine and sexy underwear. And, in a culture obsessed with sex acts, physical expressions of almost every description. Mostly that. In reality, those things can be aspects of a love relationship, but the love between two people must be more than that. I think almost anyone who has ever really been in love knows this. Love is more than emotion. Love is more than sensation. Human love, when it is real, is inseparable from divine love. Because it involves what is given, not what is gained.

Jesus tells us we have the capacity to love as he loves when he says that our love for one another will be how his followers are identified. (John 13:34-35) He not only points out that we have his capacity to love our enemies perfectly but he commands us to do so. (Mt. 5:44, 48) The love he is calling us to in these two instances is far removed from acts of emotional or physical devotion or attachment. If we are to love as he loves, we must express it in total self-giving, self-forgetting sacrifice regardless of any quality of the beloved, as he did and does. Love doesn’t act in search of a reward; love is a total giving of self to the other. Romantic love and divine love are not two separate loves; the former is an expression of the latter. Or should be.

If it isn’t, if it’s just another opportunity to sell products or have a good time, it’s not love.

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