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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Be My Valentine

It's Valentine's Day, a day for love. That's the tradition, at least. I wonder if we have a clue what that means. Sorry ... idle meanderings.

Everyone knows the sequence. You meet someone. You grow to like someone. Someday you like them so much you love them. We have that sort of hierarchy in our heads: "Acquainted" -> "Like" -> "Love". Each one is progressively higher. If you like someone, you are already acquainted with them. If you love someone, you already like them. We might hear the exchange between people, "Sure, you like me, but do you love me?" You have the mechanism of "meet", but then chemistry comes into play and you find you connect with that person until more chemistry comes into play and you are now in love. Oh, sure, "love at first sight" may jump right over "like", but you get the idea.

I would like to suggest this isn't entirely accurate even though it is fully accepted.

The Bible lists "love" not as an emotion, but as a command. Don't misunderstand. Every choice you make carries emotional response. You are, for instance, commanded to forgive those who ask. Clearly letting go of an offense will offer an internal emotional response. You feel differently. But the command to forgive is not a command to feel differently; it is a command to forgive. By the same token, we are commanded to love. Love God. Love your neighbor. Husbands, love your wives. God commanded Israel to love "the stranger who sojourns with you." (Lev 19:34) Now, it is not remotely reasonable to think that God was commanding His people to feel a particular way. No one commands their feelings. Your emotions are a response, not a choice. So it is true that the feelings we currently associate with the word "love" are the likely response to the choice God commands to love one another, but the actual love is not an emotion. It is a way of viewing the one loved. It is a seeking for the best for the other, a trust placed in the other, a self-denial in favor of the other. These things can occur without chemistry. They happen by choice.

Today's "love", if it's not sex in the mind of so many, is at least chemistry. We don't know how it happens. We can't really even quantify what it is. It's just a warm feeling, a flood of affection, something not entirely clear. Today's more skeptical scientists have even speculated that it is just that, a biochemical response in the brain. Nothing real. Nothing concrete. Brain chemistry and nothing more. That's not the biblical version.

Two considerations then.

First, when a Christian commits to a spouse, it is "till death do us part". This makes no sense in the modern version of love since everyone knows this emotion ebbs and flows. Some have even altered the vow to say, "till love do us part", as if that makes more sense. But we Christians are operating on a different basis. Biblical love--you know, the one we are commanded to have toward others--is a choice. As such, you can choose to love your wife or your husband till death. Feelings are irrelevant to the question. Conversely, if you do choose to love your spouse regardless of feelings, it is inevitable that the feelings associated with "love" in society today will follow. Christians, honor your vows.

Second, I know of no command in Scripture where we are told to "like". Now, think about "like" for a moment. Why do you like the foods you like? Why do you like the people you like? Why do you like the hobbies or pasttimes you like? Oh, I'm sure you can give some answers, but when you boil it down, I think you'll find that it's little more than ... chemistry. You have a little different structure than the one next to you, so you will have different likes than the one next to you. Simple as that. So, if "love" is a command, a choice you make, and "like" is chemistry, which is more remarkable? To me, I love my wife. I do it regardless of the feelings of the moment. Warm or not, full of affection or not, I love my wife. The warmth and affection are never far away because I love my wife, but my love for my wife is not predicated on those emotions. Thus, to me it is amazing how much I like my wife. I can't tell you why. Oh, I can list things I like, but I can't tell you why I like them. Nor can I offer a suitable explanation of why I like her so much. I just ... do.

It's Valentine's Day. They tell me it is a day started by the Church to celebrate Saint Valentine (turns out there were three of them), some claim in an effort to counter a pagan erotic festival, Lupercalia. How it became a celebration of love and marriage is unclear. But we know it's not limited to lovers. Every school-age child brings valentines to school to give to classmates without regard to love. All that is needed is affection. All that is expected is that you like each other. Love is commanded. It is excellent, a reflection of part of God's nature. Today, while you celebrate that command, why not revel in those you like as well? That is much more of a mystery. By all means love. But why not tell someone you like them today, too?

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