What’s True Love, Anyway?
So, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and your only plan is to treat it like any other day. Or maybe you considered having flowers delivered to your office from a “secret admirer” because it’s one way to participate in the festivities. I’ve heard that happens; not that I would know anything about the matter.
Whether we celebrate it, loathe it, or treat it like any other day, none of us will escape the fact that today, we will think about love. Perhaps we’ll wander into a store and get blinded by the explosion of everything pink and red, turn on the radio and hear a ballad, or help our children make cards to take to school. Love is on our minds.
The Pursuit of the Romantic
I live in the United States, and in my context, we are fascinated, dare I say obsessed, with “true love.” True love contains promise of deep satisfaction, compatibility, attraction, personality, and endless adventure. It is our quest to spare nothing to find this (one) true love.
I find it interesting that we only speak of “true love” about romantic love. The love between friends, a parent and child, a brother and sister, a pastor and his flock, are all in a separate category, which is perhaps labeled “untrue or less-than-true” love? Who defines true love, anyway?
1 John 4:10 tells us that we love God because he first loved us. It is he who woos and pursues and it is we who respond to his love. We can’t even boast that we love him. That’s incredibly humbling.
When God saved me 15 years ago, there was one indisputable fact which came into focus: God had been pursuing me my entire life in a way no man has ever or will ever match. Becoming a disciple of Jesus meant saying yes to the greatest love I have ever known.
God’s pursuit stands head and shoulders above even the most romantic story lines. His pursuit is costly to him and free to His beloved. It is a love which displays itself in moving heaven to come to earth when his beloved couldn’t care less to be in relationship with Him. In a letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul puts it this way: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Eph. 5:8).
The Love Beyond the Mysticism
When we as Americans speak of “true love,” there is often a mysticism about it. It’s a love which is unknown to us, but we are certain it’s out there somewhere and we are relentless in our pursuit of it.
In seeking to find our deepest satisfaction in another human being, we seek to give a sinful human being who is as desperate for grace as we are, the place of God in our lives. It’s idolatry, and it's grievous to God and harmful to us. Nobody bears up under the weight of godhood, and in fact, we were not meant to. In the gospel, we find that God gives us more than we could ever dare hope or imagine, and more than any of us could ever deserve. His love for us makes us beautiful. His love for us saves us, enlists us in his mission to proclaim his gospel to the world, and empowers us to love others well.
So, here I am on this coming Valentine’s Day as a single woman declaring to you as you read this, that a relationship status does not equate to the experience of true love. Romance is beautiful and worth celebrating. It is a gift of God. Friendships marked by loyalty, vulnerability and sacrifice are beautiful, as is the love a pastor has for his flock which expresses itself in humble, servant leadership. In our celebrations today, may we remember that these loves are gifts, and they offer us a glimpse of the truest love of all—the love of God displayed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.