True Love

The weather in the Southern United States has been something of a challenge the last few days! And here we are on Valentine’s Day digging out of the snow and sleet and running around looking for cards.

But there’s good news from Oconee County: “The Oconee County County Sheriff’s Office announces that Valentines Day has been CANCELLED from a line North of I-16 to the Georgia/Tennessee border,” the humorous Sheriff Scott Berry posted on the department’s Facebook page. “Men who live in the designated ‘NO VALENTINE’S DAY ZONE’ are exempt from having to run out and buy lottery scratchers and Hershey bars from the corner stores until February 18, 2014, due to ice, snow, freezing rain.”

Whew! Thanks Sheriff Berry!

Our modern definition of love is filled with the heady fantasies of romance and finding “the one meant for me, and me alone.” Of course this popular perception of love leaves in its wake the broken hearts of those who never find that “fantasy” someone and the divorce rate in the society is all the proof you need to see the bankruptcy of this “Hollywood” version of true love.

It turns out authentic love is much more profound, much more demanding, and much more life-giving and selfless than anything any of the romance novels or sappy movies could ever imagine.

In our Epistle Lesson today, St. John, the Beloved Disciple, writes about true love (Why do I hear Wesley’s voice from “The Princess Bride” when I write those words?) that bears contemplation on this day when we remember St. Valentine. He writes our instructions in 1 John 2:7-17. In these 10 verse St. John encourages us to come face to face with the reality that love isn’t so much an emotion or feeling, but a decision that has real and observable actions; not mere words or sentiments. He gives a final warning in the latter part of the pericope: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17

For St. John, there are three great hindrances to true love: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In other words, my selfish immediate desires undisciplined and indulged; my eyes looking and envying and comparing others; and my own notion that my own life is more valuable than anything else. All of these slaveries extinguish true love. They destroy my love for God and my authentic love for others. They reduce all my relationships to the vampiric consumption of the emotional needs of myself at the expense of those around me. That can never be love.

Today, as we approach Great Lent and the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, it’s time to examine your love; your love for God and your love for others. It’s time to scrutinize the motivations of your heart and the courage of your soul in living a life based on true love and not the foolish and shallow notion of “you complete me” Hollywood codependency. The love St. John teaches us is a choice that disciplines all my lusts into self-sacrificing love expecting nothing in return. That’s the kind of love given to us by God and His love is the only healthy measurement we need.

Today, in honor of the saint whose name this day bears, “let us love one another so that, with one mind we may confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” That’s true love.

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