Valentine’s Day: Beyond Candy and Roses
Here’s wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day upcoming! I plan on spending special time with my beloved this weekend. She will receive the requisite tribute of chocolate and roses and a mushy card.
I hope you can find the right words and gestures toward your loved ones too. That applies to singles equally, because love–true love–isn’t just for people in romantic relationships. It involves a lot more than just feelings of attachment. Saint Valentine himself, from what little we know, was a martyr for his Christian faith. I doubt he had little candy hearts with his last meal. But he loved Jesus.
The Pink Fog
Amidst the pink fog around Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to get confused about true love. We will go far afield if we let our culture define “love” for us. Consider the fact that millions of theatergoers are eagerly awaiting the premiere–on Friday the 13th!–of the film version of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The movie is an extended celebration of sado-masochism, in which a wealthy and handsome man manipulates an innocent young woman into gratifying his desire to inflict pain. And they call this a love story?
What a contrast to biblical teaching! The apostle John writes, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Christ did not come to inflict pain on us (which we deserved); instead he took the pain upon himself so that we might be spared.
This is the true love for which so many people yearn, without knowing how to find it. Tragically, they too often settle for false substitutes. They identify love with desire and attachment–even when the attachment is damaging to the persons involved.
Marriage Up for Debate
The nature of marital love, in particular, is up for debate in our society. The Supreme Court recently announced that it will rule on whether the traditional definition of marriage, as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, violates the U.S. Constitution. The court will hear oral arguments in April and deliver its decision in June.
We Christians need to be ready to speak our piece in the discussions that are sure to arise around those dates. We need to know what the Scriptures teach and what we believe about marriage–and be able to explain why.
We must be prepared to give our answer not only in secular society, but also inside the church. Local presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are currently voting on a Book of Order amendment that would redefine marriage from “a man and a woman” to any “two persons.” Pastor friends in more conservative denominations tell me they receive inquiries from prospective members about their position on same-sex relationships. They are on the spot to give an answer.
We Have Answers
Do we have an answer? Theology Matters believes that we do. It is not just a “no” to same-sex relations or cohabitation or any of the other substitutes that our society accepts. It is a “yes” to marriage as God intended it–the mystery of the two created sexes becoming “one flesh” in total, unconditional self-giving. In the covenant of marriage we see an image of the love that God has for his people–a love that reaches across the divide to claim us as his own, and never lets go.
We know also the earthly blessings that marital love can bring. Abundant social science research shows that both adults and children are, on average, happiest and healthiest when they live in a household constituted by the lifelong union of one man and one woman. God’s design really is best for us!
Theology Matters has resources that can help you, or others in your congregation, articulate these truths. We have a six-part DVD series entitled “What’s the Big Deal about Marriage? Reclaiming God’s Plan for Men and Women.” You can order it on our website here. Further down that website page, you will see back issues of Theology Matters related to marriage that you are welcome to download and print.
As you can see, love and marriage are topics to which Theology Matters has devoted considerable attention over the years. We commend them for your reflection too. In the meantime, though, have a happy Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.
Yours in the love of Christ,Alan F.H. Wisdom Interim Editor 703-300-5223 Theology Matters P.O. Box 3940, Fredericksburg, VA 22402