May real love bloom
February 13, 2012
by Rev. Bill Hillyer, Saving Grace Lutheran Church, Delano

Valentine’s Day – a day most women look forward to with great anticipation. A day that most men look forward to with great angst!

Now, don’t get me wrong – most men want to show their wives and sweethearts that they love them and are prepared to do anything for them. Unfortunately, when most people think of “love,” they think only of an emotional response – and let’s face it, ladies – men aren’t very well equipped for that.

Sadly, the world’s view of love focuses upon feelings. Just take a look at the Valentine’s cards that are on the racks in the stores. Most of them describe a love that knows only emotion and passion. And, of course, emotions and passion are a part of love. But, anyone who has been married for more than a decade or two knows that love is so much more than a feeling.

Even the legendary story of St. Valentine is rooted in emotion and feelings. It seems that the Roman government in the 3rd century was having trouble recruiting enough men to maintain a strong military, and Roman law did not allow the government to draft a married man into the army. The emperor, Claudius II had a law passed forbidding men under a certain age from getting married.

But one Christian pastor resisted this new law. He understood that God had intended the commitment between a man and woman in marriage to be the building block of a nation and our society. So, he performed marriages in secret despite the Roman law.

Eventually, the emperor caught on to Pastor Valentine’s activities and had him sentenced to death for his disobedience. Legend tells us that many of the young couples he had secretly wed would visit his jail cell and pass him notes and flowers through bars as symbols of their gratitude.

The story continues that the condemned pastor fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. The day he was to be executed, Feb. 14, it is said that Valentine passed her a note which was simply signed – “Your Valentine.” A tradition was born.

Yet, love would be better off defined in terms of commitment. For it is commitment, not feelings, that will produce a life-long love affair between a man and his wife. Several years ago, we lived next to a family whose grandparents came from Vietnam. They had been married over 40 years. I asked “Grandpa” what the secret of their strong marriage was, and he responded that it was “learning to love each other in their first several years of marriage.”

Naturally, I was curious about this, and upon further questioning, found out that the couple had never even met before their wedding ceremony. Their now rather large extended family was the result of an arranged marriage by their parents. Grandpa went on to tell me that a young couple does not really know what love is, “they only know what their feelings tell them.” He went on to teach me that real love between a man and wife comes through years of trials and tribulations that are cemented together by commitment. Only then does real love bloom.

This type of love and commitment then carries over into our relationships with each other, with our families, and even with society. For, as Grandpa asked me, “How can you love and respect a stranger when you cannot do so with the one you love?”

God’s Word would agree with Grandpa. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.” (l Cor. 13:4-8)

There is nothing wrong with romance, passion, and feelings! They are all a gift from God for our proper enjoyment. At the same time, we need to remember that love is not a feeling which can come or go depending upon our moods or feelings. True love is based upon a commitment to one another – just as we know that God’s love for us will never fail.

How do we know God’s love will never fail us? Because of His commitment in sending His one and only Son to set us free from sin, death, and the devil. His commitment to mankind is perhaps the most famous verse in Scripture; “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.”

So men, even if you’re not very good at displaying your emotions, go ahead and let your wife know how much you are committed to her by writing a note, taking her out to dinner, or sending her flowers. It’s not the size of the gift or the amount that it costs that she’s looking for, it’s your commitment. Show her your commitment and watch the love (and yes, feelings and emotions) follow!