The commercialization of romance has cheapened both it and love. Couples are sold the line that if only they buy this thing, go to this place, and give this gift on this certain day, their relationship will reach the heights of love they could only previously imagine. They are told that the experience of lovely feelings constitutes true love. But this is simply a distraction from true love. True love cannot be packaged into a celebration, nor can it survive on a string of warm feelings. It requires a foundation of endurance, patience, longevity, and faithfulness to be achieved.
In this sense, true love is mostly observed in the rear-view mirror. It is not so much seen in gift-giving as it is in faithfulness. It is not so much seen in romance as it is in self-sacrifice. However, because these forms of love are not ‘young and fun’, few seem to pay much attention to it. At least, not until significant damage is done. In reality, and most certainly for Christians, anniversaries are more a display of love than anything that could take place during the celebration of St Valentine.
This is why it is easy to conclude that the desire for immediate gratification has replaced wisdom in our modern mind. Where immediate gratification only cares about the present, wisdom considers the whole of life. In the case of love, before it acts, wisdom sits down to consider the cost of the action fifty years later. It considers whether or not the action will be seen as loving in the future—even if the present action will not be received as such. Instant gratification only wants the feeling of love now—even if it has to sacrifice future blessings.
The other reason a Valentine kind of romance is detrimental is that it completely excludes the single population. In fact, it teaches the singles that they cannot know what love is until they are in a relationship. The trouble with the exclusion is this: how are singles to prepare for a relationship? How are singles to prepare to love another person for the rest of their lives? Do they simply sit there hoping to catch love like one catches a flu? How can they practice feeling a certain way for the rest of their life? What if they never find anyone?
Perhaps the underlying question is this, “Why don’t we celebrate true love?”
True love is for everyone—even singles. When Paul wrote of the way of love (1 Cor. 13:4-7), he did not write of any erotic love. He did not write a list of things only married folk are to do. No, he spoke of a love each person was to have for one another.
“Love is patient,” he wrote, “it does not envy or boast.”
“Love is kind... it is not arrogant or rude.”
“Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”
“Love rejoices with the truth, not at wrongdoing.”
“Love bears burdens, believes the best, is full of hope, and endures to the end.”
Love is humility.
Humility is something we all need; it is something we all can do regardless of our relational status. In fact, this true path of love can be practiced by singles and married folk alike. It is for the single person preparing for a relationship. It is for the married person relating to their spouse. It is for a whole life that looks like Christ.
And that is the point of true love. True love is not confined to a setting, nor is it easily celebrated. Rather, it desires to celebrate others.
Another point needs to be made: when true love is the foundation for all relationships, every aspect of that relationship is enhanced. Whether in affections, or communication, humility provides a solid foundation so that when the winds blow and the floods rise, the relationship remains steadfast.
Therefore, all is not lost this Valentines Day, especially for Christians. We will still celebrate, but our celebrations will most certainly look a whole lot different than the modern commercialization of romance.