While it’s yet another commercial holiday, the meaning and purpose of the day is beautiful: to recognize and celebrate the special “someone” in your life and to express your love for them.
People obviously celebrate in a variety of ways, and some (in objection to overpriced flowers) don’t celebrate at all. However, the message of the day remains the same: do something nice for the person who loves you most.
Hardly a general concept that is objectionable– we need more love in the world, and I certainly welcome a day to celebrate love.
However, as Christians this date also teaches us a valuable lesson because it reminds us what love looks like.
Love is beautiful. As Paul wrote so famously in 1 Cor 13, it is patient, kind, it does not cause you to think of yourself as more important than another (v4), love does not think of oneself, and is thereby self-sacrificial (v5). Jesus of course spoke of love, and weighed in that there was no greater love than the willingness to die in someone else’s place (John 15:13). Love, at it’s very core is something that causes one to defer importance to the object of their love– doing whatever it takes to serve and elevate that object, regardless of the personal sacrifice that might entail.
Tomorrow we’ll express this love towards those who love us most. But this also brings us an issue that for Christians, must be remembered and contended with:
Jesus told us to love our enemies… and there are not two kinds of love. There’s only the kind that that does good towards another despite personal sacrifice to do so.
When Jesus taught this to his disciples he reminded them that even the people you think are dirtbags love the people who love them back, but there is no reward in limiting love only to those who reciprocate. Instead, the Christ follower is commanded to love those who refuse to return that love– the same type of love they’d give to those who return it– because there aren’t two kinds of love… there’s just one.
While the ways you express your love toward your significant other tomorrow will widely vary, I do know one thing you will not do tomorrow: you’re not going to get out of bed, pour a fresh cup of coffee, and then proceed to pump their guts full of lead with an AR15.
Why? Because you don’t have to be a genius to know that killing your spouse is the most unloving and hateful thing you could do. Killing is not love– it is the precise opposite of love.
And so, tomorrow we’ll all refrain from killing our spouses- instead opting to do good towards them. Common sense and the Spirit within us testifies that love equals this type of expression.
Tomorrow however, the Christian is reminded that there are not two kinds of love– there’s only one. We, as Christ followers, are required to extend to our enemies and those who wish to harm us this same type of self-sacrificial, nonviolent, going the extra mile type love. It’s part of the deal with following Jesus.
In addition, it is important to remember that when the Bible talks about love it talks about actions and behavior instead of emotion (though love includes emotions). The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t love (with actions) someone who you’ve just riddled with bullet holes and who is now a bloody corpse at your feet. Love cannot be extended to someone who is dead. Yes, we can miss them, still love them in our hearts, still honor their memories– but we cannot actively love and serve them when they’re dead.
This means that for the Christ follower, loving our enemies begins with refusing to kill them– ever. There’s no real or hypothetical scenario for love equating to killing. Yes, one can think of scenarios where killing to protect is loving for the one being protected– but remember what Jesus said: even dirt bags will do that. However, there is no real or hypothetical scenario where being killed is loving for the enemy being killed. Instead, Christlike love does not reserve itself simply for the people who reciprocate love, but for the people who utterly refuse to– and who actively express the opposite of love towards us.
There aren’t two kinds of love– there’s only the kind that reduces the importance of self in order to serve and actively do good to another– regardless of what type of sacrifice that entails. For Jesus, it involved the ultimate sacrifice.
And this is precisely the kind of love Jesus commands his followers show their enemies.