Written By Rachael Chong, Singapore
With no valentine to speak of, the “day of love” passed by quite uneventfully for me this year. I did not give it a second thought until a Christian sister I knew was attached quipped after an evening of Bible study together that it was “just another day.”
It surprised me that she could shrug it off so easily. Was I placing an undue premium on Valentine’s Day?
I remember as a schoolgirl, my teacher taught us to celebrate the 14th of February as “Friendship Day” and make friendship bands for each other. We would excitedly tie strands of colored thread together, interlocking them as if to reflect our tight bonds of friendship. I have clearly outgrown this now, because the day does not pass without me dwelling on the love I lack—the romantic relationship I want, but don’t have.
It’s so easy to hanker after gestures of love—hand-holding, kissing, and extravagant gift-giving—that we forget that love runs so much deeper than that. As humans, we tend to elevate tangible displays of affection—we feel loved when embraced, and we feel comforted when someone squeezes our hand.
And while lovers celebrate this demonstration of love, singles may look on in wistful envy, wishing that we, too, could be recipients of such romantic displays of affection. But before we start becoming too consumed by what we don’t have, I want to encourage us all to consider that true love is found in the One who is Love Himself.
. . . God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:8b-10)
These verses radically redefine what we commonly think of as love. Love first came from God, through grace in sending His own Son Jesus Christ, and mercy in having Him bear our sins. Love was Jesus’ sacrifice that offered us eternal life beyond this mortal, broken world. Jesus won us peace and reconciliation with our Father—this is love.
I remember a time in secondary school when I felt out of place and misunderstood. Being a shy and quiet girl who did not really like to mingle, I envied my outgoing and popular peers who enjoyed camaraderie with each other. I wanted so much to belong that I hated my introverted nature. I wanted to be noticed and accepted for who I was, but nobody seemed to care. Even now, when I have grown out of my shell and grown in capabilities, I still hanker after admiration and recognition.
However, since becoming a Christian, I have been moved by the knowledge that I am loved beyond measure. Knowing this redefines my sense of worth—from deriving satisfaction in the love and attention that others shower me with, to being satisfied in His unconditional love. It is also this love of Christ that “compels us”, that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). His love transforms me not to yearn after the short-lived pleasures of human recognition and romantic love in light of eternity, for He empowers me to cease living for myself—but for Him, and the people He loves and wants me to love.
This love transcends physical displays. I can lavish quality time on my loved ones, sit in companionable silence with someone, or simply be an ever-present help in times of need. I can lay aside my interests and preferences and consider others more important than myself (Philippians 2:4). I can redirect my affections to my Christian brothers and sisters by listening to their woes, admonishing them with God’s Word and encouraging them to abide in His great love. I can see a Christian sister in need and be moved to open my heart and fill her need. I can make sacrifices for the sake of His people, because these heavenly treasures will never fade.
The practical love that flows out from the love of God is beyond physical, romantic gestures of affection, but a building and stirring of one another towards love and good deeds, readying ourselves for the day when He comes again (Hebrews 10:24-25). There is no better way to love than to help each other grow in Christlikeness. Our Father is glorified when we truly love one another.
So whenever we’re met with displays of affection that leave us wanting or desiring for tangible displays of affection, let us lift our eyes to the Cross of Calvary where Jesus showed the most magnificent display of self-sacrificial love, and seek to love those around us not just in words or speech, but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).