Nice and fuzzy...but not the greatest love

What Valentine’s Day means for a young, single and Christian man.

Today is Valentine’s Day, when traditionally romantic love is celebrated. And how beautiful that love! It draws two lonely hearts together and is the foundation of familial love, the subject of many lives made or broken, many poems and letters, much laughter and many tears. But the Bible passage (John 15:9-17) in today’s Our Daily Bread, a popular daily devotional website for Christians, has Christ focusing on a different type of love—the love between friends.

Contemporary celebration of Valentine’s Day has come under some criticism: that it is too commercialised and marginalises single people. Secular expressions of romantic love now dominate the western popular discourse on relationships, evident in pop songs, pulp fiction, films and TV dramas. Occasionally other kinds of relationships may emerge into our consciousness, such as friendship in the highly-acclaimed film “The King’s Speech” or different expressions of parental love in the controversial book “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” But the dominance of romantic relationships in our social consciousness is so tyrannical that some single people have declared war against it—in some cases rising in arms*, with ire focused on this single day. Other singletons barricade themselves against the onslaught, perhaps using tactics suggested by my friend’s up-and-coming blog on relationships**.

Now, as Christians we are supposed to live a life of rebellion against worldliness, but not quite in the ways suggested above. In the passage Jesus defines the one type of love on Earth that has no parallel: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (v. 13). What a wake-up call! In a world that determines social success with how attractive one is to the opposite (or same) sex, or how much of a conqueror one is sexually, Jesus reminds us that the greatest love is love among friends, so deep that they are willing to lay their lives down for each other. The worldly world refuses to believe that there is a love greater than that, leading to quite interesting theories, even among Christians, that such love must be romantic love. An oft-debated example is the friendship between David and Jonathan in the books of Kings.

But Jesus says that love between friends is the greatest love because that is the love he loved us with when he went to the cross. Yes, the collective Church is the bride of Christ, but he lay down his own life for each and every one of us not as a husband, but as a friend. And his final command to us is: “Love each other as I have loved you.” (v. 12).

I am certainly not downplaying the role of romantic love; after all, the family is a beautiful expression of God’s love too. But for those of us who are single, let’s not be bitter against those who have partners, or seek to isolate ourselves from the world as if this day was made against us. Let Valentine’s Day be a day when we express our deep love for our friends, and above all, our Friend who loved us so much that he lay his life down for us.

 

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* The headline reads: “Single netizens up in arms against Valentine’s Day with five tactics, such as buying up every other seat in a cinema, or slapping the faces of men with partners on the street.”

** The title of the blog is: “A list of what to do on Valentine’s Day if you’re single.”

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