My recliner tipped slightly to the right as my daughter placed her elbows and weight on the armrest. She was on her knees beside the chair, and her face was inches from mine. I turned my head to study her preteen face. The braces, the glasses, the innocence.
“Mom,” she said. “What do I do if a boy asks me to be his Valentine at school today? How do I say no nicely without hurting his feelings?”
I smiled and shifted my weight in the chair so I could face her fully. All the while I searched my brain for a decent answer. I decided to teach her one of the classics. You know, a version of the old let-down line; “It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Why don’t you just tell him that you don’t really do that? That you don’t have one specific Valentine person like that. That you want to have lots of friends.”
She thought about it for a moment then shrugged and said she guessed it would be nice enough.
I continued, “Having lots of friends is a good thing!”
She stood and nodded. Conversation over.
The topic of boys and relationships is simply on pause in her young life. I may try to live in denial, but I do know that soon enough, she’ll be hoping for Valentine suitors, and not asking for advice on how to reject them. And that’s a wonderful thing. Romance, love, marriage. They are gifts, and I hope and pray all of my children will experience each someday with great delight!
But, there’s also something to be said about love in the realm of friendship. And not just in Valentine season.
I’ve been to many weddings where 1 Corinthians 13, the so called “Love Chapter” was recited. It’s fine. The attributes of love listed in this passage are great principles for love within marriage and romance. Don’t get me wrong. But, this passage, in its context, is actually talking about a different type of love. Not romantic love, but the “I want to have lots of friends” type of love.
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, and in the context of chapter 13, he’s teaching about love within the Body of Christ. Unity among believers. He’s showing them that love is the be-all, end-all. He says:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Listen. We, as Christians, should never forget this; It’s not about what we DO for God. It’s about how we LOVE.
And how should we love? Paul explains that too. He tell us in verses 4-8 what love should look like.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
But HOW do we love like this? How do we put this into practice when ugliness like comparison, selfishness, greed, and entitlement are so easy to focus on instead? Even among Christians. Or unfortunately, especially among Christians. So how do we love like Paul is teaching?
We find the HOW in the WHO.
Maybe we do need that one Valentine after all. Love Himself.
Jesus is actually the author of love, the One who created it. His plan of redemption is rooted in love. John 3:16 says,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God so LOVED…
If we love Jesus and live for Him, He will teach us how to love. It will become an overflow of our love and relationship with Him. The more we love Him, the more we will learn to love as He loves.
We learn to love when we focus on Him, not on ourselves or each other.
“It’s not you, it’s me.” I guess Jesus could use that ol’ line too.
And use it best of all.