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Monday, February 10, 2020

How do I Love … Let Me Count the Ways

Love gets very special attention this week. Hundreds of millions of valentines will be exchanged. Who loves the theme of love most? Those who sell cards, flowers, candy, and the restaurant trade.

It’s rather odd that we have such a day on a calendar. Trying to pin down a truthful history that justifies the occasion is almost impossible. There are too many mutations to the legend.

Supposedly, we get the day in honor of a person with a spiritual legacy—St. Valentine. The variations on his story make that legacy questionable. Even scholarly attempts found in Christian periodicals fall short.

In grade school, Valentine's Day meant exchanging those cheap little cards and heart shaped candies with messages like “Be mine.” If you were lucky, a cute girl would send one that said “kiss me.” It made you wonder if she had eyes for you. But in third grade, you really didn’t know what that meant.

Are you sending a love message with a candy heart? Then your Valentine is getting “sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, glycerine, artificial and natural flavors, gelatin, vegetable gums (tragacanth, xanthan and arabic), citric acid, and artificial colors (red 3, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, blue 1).” It’s on the box.

For most men, giving flowers on Valentine's Day is a must. Seasonal advertising is always pitching some great offer on roses accompanied by stuffed animals or boxed candy. These too shall pass. With or without the commitment that true love is best expressed by.

More than one survey has been taken on the “best love song of all time.” One list I found offered these selections.

  • “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers.
  • “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin. 
  • “Let's Stay Together” by Al Green. 
  • “Something” by The Beatles. 
  • “Your Song” by Elton John. 
  • “My Girl” by the Temptations.

Anyone familiar with these tunes knows that the lyrics are mostly focused on a romantic kind of relational love. Michael Bolton had a hit record with the song, “Love is a Wonderful Thing.” Hmmmm. A “thing”?

In the Christian faith, we are taught about three forms of “love”:
  1. Agape—Rich, unconditional love
  2. Eros—Romanic love
  3. Phileo—Affectionate or brotherly love

It’s said the ancient Greeks added five more expressions.
  • Philautia—Self-love
  • Storge—Familial love (*sometimes found in Christian teaching)
  • Pragma—Enduring love
  • Ludus—Playful love
  • Mania—Obsessive Love.

Relationship counselor Craig Lounsbrough recently wrote about love and said, “Take love out of our existence, and the chilling question would be ‘what’s left?’” He offered some interesting responses of his own, saying that “loss” would abound. Here are three of his examples.

Loss of Community
Take away love and we have no reason to consider our fellow man nor join him in the partnership of life and living. The communal foundation forged strong by empathy, fired by sympathy, and cinched tight by respect, is obliterated. Without love our world would fall, and in the chaos of the descent it would tear itself apart to its own death.

Loss of Self
Take away love and our own individual existence would fall into abject irrelevance. The desire to sustain ourselves would devolve to a singularly primitive savagery…Hatred of self—and for self —born of the absence of love, would cause us to viciously turn on ourselves, rendering us our own enemies…In essence, to become loveless is to become non-existent.

Loss of Life
Take away love and nothing would capture our imagination. We would find nothing compelling. We would never marvel or be held in the mesmerizing embrace of wonder….Passion, desire, dreams and hope are all borne of love and entirely sustained by it. Take away love and we take away meaning.

Good thoughts, Craig!

Bottom line? God IS love. Jesus explains how to love. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love. The apostle John writes, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

Want the secret to a meaningful life? Learn to love, Valentine.

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