It’s that time of year again, the time of year men bemoan and women anxiously fret over whether or not their men will come through or, if single, if they will spend the day alone. Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day! As I’ve grown older, the meaning of the day has changed a lot for me, likely primarily because I have outgrown a lot of that high school insecurity. However, as much as I think we shouldn’t overvalue Valentine’s Day, I do think it is important to remember the importance of what the day is meant to celebrate and encourage: love.
Little children, let’s not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:18
A major theme in Scripture is our responsibility to “love one another as [Christ has] loved you” (John 5:12). Call me crazy, but that sounds… well…hard. Like, really hard. I could be wrong, but I don’t think, Jesus was talking about giving each other chocolates one day a year. I also don’t think he was talking about giving said chocolates to just our significant others. I think, just maybe, He was talking about something bigger, much bigger.
So how can we love one another, like we are commanded? Well, fortunately, one of the ways you can do it is with food! (Yes, that’s always a wonderful answer!)
One of my favorite things about food and cooking is that it is such a flexible way to share our blessings and weaknesses, as well as to love one another. It blesses others on a basic, human level, fulfilling our needs in a generous manner. It can be received by all kinds of love languages:
- Gifts: the thought involved in planning and preparing a meal or dessert is a lovely gift and blesses those that receive love this way
- Acts of Service: cooking a meal for someone (or even just cleaning up the dishes– ALL the dishes) means that they don’t have to do it themselves, but they still get to enjoy a home-cooked meal
- Words of affirmation: this one Is a little different, but complimenting someone’s efforts in the kitchen are a very welcome way affirming their work and attempts to bless and love you!
- Quality time: as I’ve written before about community and sharing coffee together, food is the perfect occasion to share quality time, building community with one another, actively loving one another with our time
- Physical touch: this is a difficult one, but lends itself well to romance (so maybe this isn’t for platonic or filial love)– plenty of foods are perfect for inspiring physical touch between husband and wife, things like feeding one another finger foods, dollops of frosting or whipped cream that get playfully kissed off noses.
But what’s the point? Why bother making gestures of love or affection today of all days? Why should I bake someone cupcakes or cook them dinner today and not next week? Well, really, there is no reason for choosing February 14th over February 15th(after all, St Valentine’s Day was placed on the 14th to give Christians something to observe instead of Lupercalia). But it does provide us with a perfect reminder and opportunity to practice what we are called to do as Christians– love one another.
It is a tall order, to love one another, especially as we are to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Thanks to the story of the Good Samaritan, we know we are supposed to love everyone, even those that we consider to be the least worthy of love, but what does it mean to love like Christ loves us? Fortunately, Paul wrote us a handy-dandy checklist, a litmus test for true love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Yes, it’s overused, especially in weddings, but it is such a valuable passage, one that should actively assist us in leading our lives. If our actions are not patient, kind, but are envious, boastful or proud, dishonoring to others, is self-seeking, easily angered, score-keeping or delighting in evil (aka vengeful), they are not loving, they are not Christlike.
So here comes the Valentine’s Day challenge: love someone. Truly love someone. It doesn’t have to be your spouse or significant other (although you should probably be sure to truly love him or her this week as well!), and I would actually challenge you to choose someone else, someone that may not often experience love. Use this Valentine’s Day to love a Zacchaeus in your life. Share a meal with them, bring them a special, thoughtful treat, send them a handwritten card or note with words of encouragement or gratitude. Spend the time to make the chocolates, to cook the lobster bisque your husband loves. Don’t just show someone that you love them, but actively love them in deed.