Valentine's Day, the day of LOVE recently passed once again.
To tell you the truth, I largely missed it this year. My husband, being the amazing man he is, remembered it in all its glory. But I was so caught up in day-to-day challenges that until he whipped out the candy and cards, I forgot all about it.
I think Valentine's day is overrated. It plays into the tendency of our modern age to deify human attraction, romance, in a nutshell the secular idea of love. It is a god, that which we believe will make us complete, fulfilled, satisfied and happy. And unfortunately, it is a false god much like that which is discussed in the first of the ten commandments.
Wait a minute! Some may say. God is love, right? So what's wrong with deifying love.
The problem is that which we are de-ifying is not really love. It may be affection. It may be lust. It may be codependency. But love it is not.
So to be cliche, I must ask, "What is love?" I mean the way God sees it and puts it into human terms.
There is a famous biblical discussion about love between Jesus and Peter in John 21. In this interlude, the risen Christ keeps asking Peter "Do you love me?" The first two times he uses the word "agape" which means to love something in a way that does not depend on reciprocation or innate worthiness. Peter answers that he does love Christ, but he does not use "agape" he uses "phileo" which is brotherly love or affection. Peter's denials of Christ on that fateful night of the crucifixion testify all too loudly in his conscience for him to use any other word for love.
Finally the third time, Christ simply asks Peter, "Do you love (phileo) me?" And Peter is grieved. Peter came face to face with his own inability to love properly -- to love well. After all, if you cannot love Christ well, then who can you love?
But this is a moment of great significance -- a moment Christ has painstakingly engineered over the course of Peter's discipleship. Christ brought Peter to this point that Peter might understand his own inadequacy in the area of love.
Because that's the very place where true love can begin.
We are all so willing label things "love" that are not love and then build our own alters to it, pretending that we worship God.
God is love, indeed. But He is real love, the kind of love that is ignited in us only when we first are brought to understand our own inability to accomplish it. For we, like Peter, will only ever learn to love well, to agape love, when we allow our hearts to be grieved by the reality of our own inadequacy and therefore rely on our Lord's ability love through us.