This is a copy of my article for the FEBRUARY 2015 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’
As Valentine’s Day approaches love, as the song goes: ‘is in the air’. But have you ever wondered what it is that sparks a relationship into life? Ed Sheeran contemplates this in ‘Thinking Out Loud’ when he sings: “I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways.” What was the magic or secret ingredient for you? We live in a culture that would respond to that question in two ways. One answer would be that good relationships happen by luck, fate or by some arrangement of the stars! Another answer would be that finding someone to love is all about technique. We see this in women’s and men’s magazines that teach us how to persuade, captivate, even seduce, someone by dressing in the right way or by speaking the right kind of ‘lurve’ language.
Love is a word that is always on people’s lips: there are more songs sung about it, poems written about it, and escapist books romanticising about it than any other subject in the world – apart from Jesus, that is. Most psychologists agree that the greatest need of men and women is to love and be loved. A recent BBC survey confirms this when it found that 78% of people would rather be loved than have money in the bank! There are several meanings of ‘love’ and I often wonder if we use the word too easily, after all, love for a place, a love of music, love for one’s children, and love for one’s partner are all quite different.
We get a glimpse the true meaning of love in our Valentine Day celebrations when we look at its origins. Valentine was a third-century priest who disagreed with the Roman Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriage and continued to marry young lovers in secret. When Valentine was found out, he was executed on the 14th of February 270 AD. Valentine ‘the friend of lovers’ was canonised as a Saint because he sacrificed his life for the happiness of others.
In celebrating Valentine’s Day it is worth recognising that love is both sacrificial and costly. Whilst that can be beautifully reflected in a romantic relationship, it is often the unseen sacrificial love of a parent to a child, a friend to another friend, a soldier who lays his life down for a colleague, a fire fighter who risks his life to save a life or, for the Christian, in the way Jesus laid down his life for our salvation. As St Augustine wrote: ‘God loves each one of us … as if there were only one of us.’ What an amazing thought! One of the New Testament writers reminds us: ‘We love each other, because he (God) first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). So sacrificial love is born out of an understanding of God’s love for us and, whilst it is wonderful to celebrate the gift of romantic love on 14th February, it is sacrificial love, demonstrated by Jesus and Valentine, that underpins the real meaning of the day.
Most people agree that more love is desperately needed in our world today. But how much more we need God’s sacrificial love in our lives, both on Valentine’s Day and each day before and after – a love that can melt even the hardest of hearts. Becoming a Christian, and receiving the love God has for us, is the beginning of healing in our lives and the start of the most exciting (and loving) relationship we could ever have. Although this may sound much less dramatic or ‘mysterious’ than falling in love it is, in the end, of much greater value and is a much better option than giving your heart to someone who may end up breaking it.
With my very best wishes for a truly blessed, and memorable, St Valentine’s Day.