Know you ARE deeply loved
FEBRUARY BRINGS the arrival of Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated by around 40 million Brits who spend an average of £35 each (in 2020) on gifts, takeaways and movies! I can still remember the year I came home to a kitchen full of flowers… and then my (now late) husband Simon telling me how much he’d spent on a new computer! I wonder what past Valentine’s Days have been like for you – a joyful celebration of love and romance, a time of thankfulness, or a difficult day full of difficult feelings, for whatever reason? What will it be this year?
St Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 has become one of the best known and best-loved Bible passages, often read at weddings. He begins, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing…”. When Paul wrote these words, he was writing to a church that prided itself on its spirituality, but which was considerably lacking in love. He was really telling them off, challenging them to focus less on their spiritual gifts and more on the depth of their love for one another. He then goes on to describe real love – not a romantic, sentimental kind of love, but a deep, gutsy, committed kind of love: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious, boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong-doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-8)
This is the kind of love we’re all encouraged to aspire to: to think a little less about what we hope to receive in and from relationships, and a little more about what we might give. Do we encourage and build up the people we are close to? Do we forgive swiftly, and look for the best in them? Are we there for them in the tough times? Are our words and actions helping those we love to flourish? It is sometimes suggested that we might try replacing the word ‘love’ with our own name in these verses and see if we think the words ring true: “X is patient, X is kind, X is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude…” etc. How do we measure up?
The passage is often read at weddings. It is also often read at funerals, as part of a celebration of a life that has been well-lived, of a person who has loved well. Reflecting on the quality of their love can inspire us to try and be more like them.
The words are also true above all of Jesus: he was and is patient and kind. He wasn’t and isn’t envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. Read the gospels and you will find he lived a life of sacrificial love: healing, restoring, raising up, encouraging, forgiving, and ultimately dying for those he loved – including you and me. Jesus reveals to us what God is like.
He IS love, and is the source of love. So, however you spend Valentine’s Day this year, know you ARE deeply loved, precious to God, honoured in his sight. He rejoices over you with singing. And HIS love never fails.
Rev Penny Cuthbert, Associate Vicar,
St John’s Caversham