And it’s here once more – the annual celebration of love and affection, typically towards a significant other (if applicable). Valentine’s Day is actually a festival steeped in history and tradition dating a few thousand years back, involving martyrdom and superstition. Its evolution has arguably become a ‘Hallmark Holiday’ of commercialisation; creating one of the most lucrative days of the year. Perhaps that’s logical, given the January blues post-Christmas. Or perhaps it represents our Western culture of relationships and materialism. In 2016 the UK alone spent £980 million – that’s a heck of a lot of flowers, heart-shaped gifts, and fancy dinner dates. None of these things is wrong per se. Yet they can distract, or worse, promote a fake sense of love.
What is real love?
Love is messy. It doesn’t come in a neat and tidy box on a special day of the year. Real love is so much harder, grittier and painful than that. It’s learning how to bring out the best in someone. Love is to saying sorry and forgiving wholeheartedly. It means honouring people’s dreams and recognising their struggles. To consistently fight for each other, even on the hardest days when the ‘in love’ euphoria has dwindled. It’s an everyday kind-of-love.
And it doesn’t even have to be a romantic relationship. Valentine’s Day can be a tedious day at best for some, terrible for others. Singleness may be a struggle; a relationship has left you broken, or the remnants of a failed marriage are in your existence. Yet there is still hope to be found. Love is not finite. It exemplifies itself in innumerable expressions. It’s demonstrated between friends carrying one another throughout the mountains and the valleys of life. It’s demonstrated in a loving family, despite differences between generations. It’s demonstrated within a worldwide choice of loving your neighbour as yourself, even if you communicate different languages or believe other religions. It’s demonstrated through the act of faith and walking in step with the words you trust to be true. Let’s hone in a little on the latter: the collision of faith and justice.
Love and the Christian
As a Christian, I fundamentally believe it’s in our DNA to care for the poor, the marginalised and exploited both locally and globally. It’s relentlessly inscribed in the Bible, so much so that it would be impossible to hide from the fact that God’s heart is for the poor. So how can we practically love those in poverty worldwide? It’s the million-dollar question. I’m convinced that while none of us can do everything, we can all do something. We can love through prayer, upholding countries and communities that are suffering. Through giving our time, money and resources, we say a lot more than our words could ever achieve. If we live with the mandate that love is a lifestyle, it should infiltrate our everyday actions. It’s a far cry from the cute and cuddly fest we are subjected to every February, but in my opinion, this is real love anyway.