I very much appreciate the privilege I have of celebrating the loving relationships of couples in our villages. It may be at the exciting time of preparing for marriage when the couples are young or often more mature, or at the end of a life of one partner, when the bereaved husband or wife looks back with real fondness and deep gratitude at the love they have shared and have now lost.
On the 14th of February, Valentine’s Day, there will be many cards exchanged, and flowers and tokens of esteem given. I don’t know what your take is on this date in the calendar, but I must say I never say no to a bunch of flowers from my husband and a card expressing his love for me and I enjoy choosing a card for him and thinking of something that he might like to receive, too. However, it does concern me the amount of commercialisation there is, how the price of flowers goes up, simply because of the increase in demand, and the disappointments felt by some when their hopes and dreams do not come to fruition.
The Bible teaches a great deal about love, many of the references are about God’s love for the world, but there are also some helpful passages that talk about the quality of love between husband and wife; passionate and strong, faithful and valuable. The most wellknown is the passage from 1 Corinthians, known as “Love is….”, chosen by many people for their marriage service. It takes up the theme that what we do in life without love is worth little and that love should be the basis of our thoughts and actions.
However, the passage from 1 Corinthians sets an almost impossible standard of loving, but what a difference if life was lived with these standards as our foundation for life together. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love does not dishonour other people, nor is it self-seeking or easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in wrongdoing or evil but love always celebrates the good or truth. Love always protects, always trust, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never gives up.
The Bible is also the source of the saying “Love covers over a multitude of sins/wrongs”. When we love (not with Eros love) but with the unconditional and selfless love (Agape love) we are more able and willing to forgive, and the irritations and issues that could become larger are dealt with, so that life moves on.
On occasions I have had older couples tell me that they have never had a cross word between them; they are the older couples who you will see walking hand in hand along the prom or up the high street, who still delight in one another’s company. You only get out what you put in was a saying that I heard many times as I was growing up, and it is particularly significant when we talk about relationships. When we invest in the lives of others, often we are blessed too.
So, this month I want to encourage you to ponder the meaning of love. Real love. Deep love. Costly love. The loving relationships that you have in your life; partners, family, friends. How can you be more loving? Love never gives up! God’s love never gives up; it never fails. As humans, we are not perfect, but with God’s help we can love in ways that reflect those qualities we aspire to; being self-less in giving and thankful in receiving. May you know that you are loved – by God and others – and have opportunity to show others love yourself.