With Valentine's Day rapidly approaching, I recently polled a group of students about what they thought were the greatest love stories. Their answers included Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Lady and the Tramp, Romeo and Juliet and a long list of other favorites. One bright young man even offered The Song of Solomon. Like most of us, they tended to equate romance with love.
Romance is an emotional response associated with genuine love. On the positive side, it connotes a relationship which includes more than mere physical intimacy. The phrase "being in love" is an expression of romance. Romance, however, is limited to the realm of feelings, sensations, impressions, and sentiments. Genuine love is indeed much more than this. When a mother changes her child's diaper, it is probably not because she finds the odor pleasurable or because she relishes the work of scrubbing dirty bottoms. A father may take on extra jobs and work long hours, not because he enjoys the physical exhaustion, but because he wants to provide funding for his child's college education. These expressions of love are not ones which we associate with romance. They lead us to a deeper understanding of what authentic love really is.
The character of God's love far exceeds the notions we associate with romantic love. The Bible tells us that God is love, 1 John 4:8. The writer continues, "God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins," 1 John 4:9, 10. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah proclaimed that sin had separated people from God saying, "But there is a problem - your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore." (Isaiah 59:2) Because God is holy, sinful human beings (all of us) could not enter God's presence without being destroyed. Yet, God's deepest desire was to enjoy intimate companionship with the people he had created. In order to re-establish the intimacy which humanity had forfeited in Eden, God sent his only Son to assume the penalty of death which was humanity's rightful punishment. Since the human race no longer existed under the impending penalty of death, its members were free to accept the offer of eternal life that God has provided.
While God's love is supremely demonstrated through his Son's sacrifice, there are other ways God expresses his love for us. Jesus said, "Now you are my friends," John 15:15. God offers each member of the human race personal friendship, with all its emotional, physical and relational benefits. Imagine being the intimate friend of eternal royalty. God also promises to supply our physical, social and emotional needs. Paul wrote, "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches," Philippians 4:19. Who could turn down such an offer? To top all of this off, Jesus promised us an eternal home: "When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am," John 14:3.
God offers his own example of love as a model for the love between a man and a woman. This is much deeper than the common notions of romantic or sexual love. Paul wrote, "You husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her ..." Ephesians 6:25. Of course, the same could be said of the wife's love for her husband. This principle of love supersedes the mere emotional and physical expressions of love. This love is not based on what you can do for me or how you make me feel, but on who you are. The most rewarding relationships are built upon this foundation.
When you purchase that candy, that card or that bouquet, let your sentiments express more than mere romance. Let your purchase represent the authentic love of God.
(All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation).
Pastor Dan Solis, D. Min, is a youth and young adult pastor at The Village Church in College Place. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.