I’m sure you’re aware of it but just in case you’re not, it's Valentine’s this week! Judging by what’s on display in the shops, tis the season to splash out on chocolates, red roses and pricey jewellery. How ironic that a day named after a Christian martyr (St Valentine) is now associated with over-priced flowers and restaurants offering expensive ‘romantic’ candle-lit dinners. Not that I am against any of this extravagance but what is often missed is the ordinary and ongoing nature of true love. The famous Bible passage that is often read at weddings captures this well: “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Such love is borne out not by experiencing warm or fuzzy feelings but in the serving of others day in, day out – in good times and in bad. True love is about putting others first and a life lived for the benefit of others. As Jesus puts it “in everything (not just at Valentines) do to others what you would have them do to you.” Love continually puts other people first.
In practical terms this means that in all our relationships (but especially for husbands and wives) we should desist the temptation to “fix the other person first”. Many a time in a marriage, the husband knows what ‘issues’ his wife needs to sort out are and, if we were to ask her, she would probably be able to list where he is failing. In short, couples often forget to put the other first. They forget to love their neighbour as themselves. It is shocking to see how men and women who are pleasant and warm in dealing with others can then be rude, thoughtless, tacky, bitter, demanding or angry – as though marital closeness eradicated all responsibility to love your [closest] neighbour as yourself. When challenged on this, we defend ourselves by blaming the other: “She started it”; “He won’t listen.” But to blame the other is to violate the love we are to have for our neighbour.
Many couples will spend some money on their beloved over the coming week. That may be good and proper. However, to indulge your loved one in mid-February when for the rest of the year you rarely (if ever) put them first would be a travesty. The solution is to remember Christ – to remember His love and the great price He paid for your sin, to seek His forgiveness where you have failed to love (and who hasn’t?) and then in dependence on His Holy Spirit, to resolve daily to walk the way of loving your neighbour as you love yourself. Happy Valentine!
Parish magazine article for the week beginning 12th February 2017 AD