Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Greatest Thing

The subject of this Valentine's Day blog is (surprise!) love. I have once again reached back into my college-writing archives to find a poem.

In some ways, traditional Valentine's-Day love is similar to the pure Christian love described in 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest and most enduring of all virtues (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). Valentines represent tender words, sweet gifts, and all the little attentions that women, especially, delight in--as opposed to the hot passion and rush to physical intimacy that too many people define as "love." Valentine romance means doing everything one can to please the other, and feeling honored by the privilege--like Christian love, and very unlike the selfishness inherent in passion-based "love" that sees the other primarily as a means of satisfying physical desires.

Still, Valentine's Day, and all other celebrations of feelings-based romance, always retain some focus on "what I get out of it," and in this they fall short when compared to the total selflessness of pure Christlike love. If you think you are in love with someone, ask yourself: Would you remain committed to her if she suffered a disfiguring accident? Would you still want to be with him if he became totally disabled? Is there anything--an annoying habit that the loved one may never change, the appearance of someone more attractive, even the simple familiarity that breeds contempt--that would seriously tempt you to leave this person? If so, you aren't really in love--not the total-commitment love that builds happy fifty-year marriages. "Issues" invariably surface in any relationship, and if you would rather walk away than put in serious effort to work things out--or, conversely, if you are clinging so desperately to the relationship that you will put up with anything rather than confront the issues--your "love" is selfish at heart.

True Christian love is not based on passion but on compassion.

Some live for fame and some for power and some for crowns and gold,
For many think that happiness is found in what they hold.
They set their minds on things of earth and turn from things above:
But listen as I tell you now: the greatest thing is love.

For beauty fades with passing years and ends within the grave;
And wealth can't bring true happiness, however much you save;
And fame and power will die away as others take your place;
But love endures forever, though earth's centuries onward race.

The purest love comes forth from God--the love that gave us birth;
The love that will receive us home beyond our days on earth.
This world itself will end at last--but love will still endure,
And it will bring a new world forth, forever whole and pure!

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