The last blog I wrote about Valentine’s Day (several years ago) talked about how we shouldn’t be limited to just this one day to show love to those around us and how showing that love should not be wrapped up in the commercialism that’s now associated with Valentine’s Day. [I’ll happily accept chocolate any ol’ day of the year, thank you.] Now that I’m older with a (hopefully) more mature perspective, I want to go a bit deeper on the topic.
Valentine’s Day is the calendar day dedicated to love. We hear sayings of “love is in the air,” “young love,” “head-over-heels in love,” “love at first sight,” and the list goes on. For the most part, these are referring to the feeling of love. There’s a big difference between loving someone and being “in love” with someone.
Love, a beautiful concept established by God, has been contorted by the world into something twisted and confusing. The world can certainly give you its definition of love, and if you accept it, you’ll find yourself in a self-serving position of “what do I get from this?”
How different is the world’s perception of ‘love’ compared to how God intended it! While we’ll never be able to fully grasp the deepest riches of godly love, we have a good start given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
These verses give us an initial, clear-cut definition of what godly love looks like. They clearly state “Love is ______.” There are hundreds of other references to love in the Bible… 684 times in the English Standard Version to be exact (Stambh, 2021). Each verse gives another glimpse into the intricate details of godly love.
Colossians 3:14- love binds together in perfect unity
1 John 4:16- And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
Ephesians 4:2- love is the foundation of patience, humility, and gentleness towards one another
1 John 4:19- God set the standard of love.
1 Corinthians 13:13- the greatest of these is love
1 Peter 4:8- love covers a multitude of sins
Romans 12:9- Love must be sincere
1 Corinthians 13:2- if I don’t have love, I am nothing
John 15:12- love is a command
Romans 12:10- be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves
1 John 4:12- [godly] love is a sign that God lives in us, and His love is completed in us
John 15:13- love is sacrificial
Song of Solomon 8:6- love is as strong as death, a blazing fire
1 John 4:18- perfect love drives our fear
God set the ultimate example of love when He:
- Created the world and us knowing we would mess it up (sin)
- Had a plan in place to cover our ‘messiness’ (aka, our sin) … before creation
- Sent His perfect Son to selflessly take the punishment for ALL of our sins
- Continues to forgive us as we continue to stumble
- Does not hold our sins against us (for those who accept Christ’s sacrifice)
I don’t know about you, but this just blows my mind. Everything about His love for us is selfless and giving of Himself. There is no part where He receives something in return; there’s no conditions that must be met in order for His love to be given. This is our example, and this is what we as Christians are called to replicate. It may seem like an impossible task, something we can never achieve. It’s true: we won’t. We are called to become more like Christ each day, a daily walk that will only be completed when we are given new perfect bodies in Heaven. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try just because we won’t reach God’s perfect standard. We’re given a goal to work towards and the steps along the way are designed to reveal more of God to us.
Godly love is selfless, a giving of oneself… especially when you “don’t feel like it.” (God doesn’t stop loving us, even though He’s been pouring out His love since the dawn of creation.) Godly love is a commitment, a dedication to sticking it out… especially when the honeymoon phase ends and life gets real. (God doesn’t stop loving us, even as we continue to fall prey to our sinful nature.) Godly love is unconditional, a continued giving… even when we think the other person doesn’t deserve it. (God doesn’t stop loving us, even though we can do and have done nothing to deserve it.)
Living under the world’s standard of love will never bring the depth and fulfillment that God’s love brings. It’s shallow, short-lived, and rarely ever “enough.” It can (and most likely will) flare and fade depending on the person and situation. When the hardships of life come in full force, it will not stand against it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m reading my own words and thinking “Oof. You got work to do, girl.” Just because I’ve been swept up in the thrill of love recently and desperately want to ‘do it right’ does not mean I have it down. It’s easy to be committed, selfless, giving, and all that when you’re in the feelings of love; but I know full well that the strength and depth of that love will be tested at some point.
To bring all of this back around… I have no problem with the essence of Valentine’s Day. Celebrating the love we have for others is good. But let’s remember what love really is. Let’s go beyond the heart cards, flowers, and dinner. Let’s go deeper than “you make me feel special.” Let’s celebrate the fact that we can love because Someone loved us first… loved us so deeply that He sent His Son to die that we may have eternity in glory.
Even if you’ve already followed the commercial tradition (bought the flowers or chocolates, made the dinner reservation, etc.), you can still go the extra step to show godly love this Valentine’s Day.
What is the other person’s love language? Speak it (not everyone cares about gifts…).
How can you serve the other person in love? (What’s a task that you can take off their list for the day/weekend/week? How can you ‘pamper’ them?)
How about re-committing to your relationship? (Make it specific! Don’t just say “I’m committed to you.” Put detailed thought into it.)
To finish things off, here is a helpful side-by-side comparison of godly and worldly love (Russell, 2018).
|GODLY LOVE||WORLDLY LOVE|
|Love is an action.||Love is a feeling.|
|Love is about those around me.||Love is all about me.|
|Love is unconditional.||Love is based on what you’ve done for me lately.|
|Love is a commitment.||Love is a phase.|
|Love is about giving.||Love is about getting.|
|Love is about serving.||Love is about receiving.|
|Love is about physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy.||Love is about sex.|
|Love focuses on meeting the needs of those around me.||Love focuses on getting my own needs met.|
|Love works through conflict.||Love withers in conflict.|
|Love is forgiving.||Love is bitter.|
|Love moves forward.||Love gets stuck in the past.|
|Love is about transparency.||Love is about hiding and covering up.|
|Love is about trust.||Love is about suspicion|
|Love is about responsibility.||Love is about blame.|
|Love is about peace.||Love is about anxiety.|
Russell, C. (2018, December 9). Godly Love Versus Worldly Love. Retrieved from Sensible Faith: https://sensiblefaith.com/2018/12/09/godly-love-versus-worldly-love/
Stambh, A. (2021, November 1). How Many Times is Love Mentioned in the Bible? Retrieved from Ashok Stambh: https://ashokstambh.com/how-many-times-is-love-mentioned-in-the-bible/