The Greatest Love

Sorry Whitney Houston! The greatest love isn’t self love after all.

Self love may be the most natural, but that doesn’t make it the greatest. Eating dinner is a very natural thing to do, but there’s nothing inherently great or noble about it. Self love is undoubtedly the most selfish form of love. Unless you add other loves to it, it can prove disastrous and it will not lead to happiness. Only loneliness and misery.

(That said, I guess it’s still better to love yourself than no one. But it won’t lead to making the world a better place. Or even personal happiness.)

All this emphasis on self love is making this world a very childish (not to be confused with childlike) and self-centered place. When people enter into sacred marriage covenents instead of asking, “Will this please God? Can I help this other person? Will we be better able to serve our church and community together? Will I be able to stick to this person and stand by him/her no matter how I feel or how unhappy I get?” they ask themselves, “Will this person make me happy?”

The answer is no. Only God and you can make you happy. Through His Son Jesus and many minor gifts, God has already given you everything you need for happiness. Whether you choose to appreciate it and make yourself happy is up to you! That said, it’s okay to feel unhappy from time to time. In this sad and sinful world, there’s something wrong with people who’re perpetually upbeat and Happy all the time regardless of the suffering around them.

Our LORD was called the Man of Sorrows after all; not the Man of Pleasures. I’m sure Jesus knew how to laugh. The Bible records some witty stories He told (I doubt He told the whole thing without smiling!) His enemies got mad at Him for partying. But the real reason He came to us was to experience sorrow, not pleasure.

Why would the Son of God come to earth just to experience sorrow and suffering, when He could have stayed equal to God in Heaven and enjoyed Himself amidst the praises of his sinless angels? I’m not sure why He loved, but He did it for love.

Loving another person in this world is not always a happy experience. I’d say even the best of loves involve one part happiness, two parts discomfort and irritation, two or three parts sorrow and suffering.

Every “romance” this side of eternity has one of three endings.

  1.  A couple marries or maybe doesn’t even make it to the altar before one of them dies. A good friend of mine lost her beloved fiance before they even set a date.
  2. A couple marries and one hardens his or her heart and leaves the other. I know many people this has happened to. It’s not right and it hurts.
  3. A couple marries and after half a century of living together as one flesh, one dies. The other is even more devastated then the person bereaved in example one.

That’s the way love stories end. Hollywood doesn’t show that.

“See,” my critics are probably saying, “If you only stuck to self love you wouldn’t get hurt.”

I can only say there are worse things than pain. Ask any leper what it means to live without pain. And there are greater things than pleasure. Ask our LORD who left everything for the love He bore fallen humanity.

All right then, you are thinking. So what is the greatest love we can experience this side of eternity.

This is it:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13.)

Loving your friends enough to sacrifice life itself–if necessary–for their well being is the greatest form of love. Unfortunately self love can get in the way of that.hands-compassion (1)

 

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The Greatest Love

Having a Happy Valentine’s Day

IMG_4397I used to dread Valentine’s Day as an adult. The fact is, ever since I was an unattached 20-year-old I have disliked it intensely.

I attended a small, private college. Since it was a Christian college everyone was encouraged to marry early (to prevent unchastity I guess). Unfortunately there were almost three times as many girls as there were guys. Good statistics, if you are a guy who can’t find dates anywhere else.

It wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time, but imagine how it must have felt to see all your friends getting engaged or even married when none of the guys would even give you the time of day. I wondered if I needed to lose weight to find true happiness (this was the early nineties) so I went on a crash diet and lowered my caloric intake to 600 calories a day. Still no success with men!

Over the past twenty odd years a lot of changes have occurred. Several of my friends who were sure they had found lasting happiness and an earthly paradise have divorced. Like Eve they were eager to leave Paradise once they had it, I guess.

As a childless single I have a lot of reading time that my married counterparts lacked and still lack (they may get it back as retirees with empty nests, but then they won’t necessarily know what to do with it.) When I saw how much time and energy marriage and children took and the lack of cultural and intellectual development in married women I realized that celibacy wasn’t altogether a bad thing.

It was during some of this reading time that I came to the realization that the original St. Valentine was celibate too. He was, in fact, a priest–executed in ancient Rome for the crime of refusing to worship the emperor.

During his time in prison, the jailer introduced him to his daughter who had become blind. According to the legend, Fr. Valentine miraculously healed her so she could see once more.

Apparently the girl could read. Before he was killed, Valentine sent the first valentine note. I don’t know all that it said, but basically he encouraged the girl in her newly found faith. In addition to healing her eyes, Valentine had shared the Gospel message with her and she had become a Christian.

So remember, before Hallmark and Victoria’s Secrets took things over, Valentine’s Day is about much more than romance. It’s about the kind of love that is unselfish and honestly wants what is best for other people, even when they don’t have your best interests at heart.

If more marriages were based on this kind of love instead of the nebulous feelings that come with erotic romance, we might have fewer divorces. And people that can’t find marriage partners would be happier too because they would find other outlets for their affection. There would be an end to war, stealing, murdering and cheating. Poverty and sickness would be easier to bear, because people would give of their time and money to relieve others’ misery.

Here are some ways to celebrate the true meaning of Valentine’s Day which is agape rather than erotic love.

  1. Take some children’s valentines and a big Whitman’s sampler to work or the local coffee shop where you know people. Pass out the valentines and chocolates with a smile and wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day.
  2. Decorate your apartment with Valentine’s Day flowers. Cook a special meal or order delicious take-out food. Invite several friends–singles and couples and have a party. If the couples can’t make it due to other plans, that’s okay. They’ll still feel good to know they were invited.
  3. Send a single friend or two a note or short e mail telling them how much their friendship means to you. This can mean a lot to singles.
  4. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit people in a nursing home over Valentine’s Day weekend. Spread your love around.
  5. Remember God loves you so much, He sent His only Son whom He dearly loved to die in your place. This makes you pretty special! If other people can’t appreciate that that’s their problem. God’s opinion counts for infinitely more anyhow.

So have a Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

 

Having a Happy Valentine’s Day