Next Sunday many congregations will read Matthew 5:38-48 in which Jesus talks about loving our enemies. I am not sure if it is ironic or appropriate to have this scripture as a follow up to Valentine's Day. Far from the romantic, tingly toes type of love that we tend to focus on during Valentine's Day, this scripture uses words like hate, enemies, persecute, and evil. Kind of wakes us up from visions of flowers and candle-light dinners.
On Valentine's Day we tend to focus on romantic feelings we have when we first fall in love. It is certainly of some value within a relationship to attempt to recall those feelings and to remember why we fell in love in the first place. However, there is a deeper love that has little to do with butterflies in the tummy.
After the butterflies subside, new feelings set in:
irritation, anger, hurt...
oh, wait, and deep abiding love.
Seriously though, there will be days when our primary feelings will not be warm and fuzzy. This is where true love comes in. Love is about what we do more than what we feel. If we acted only upon our feelings, no relationship would last long. Love is about kissing your spouse and saying "I love you" even when you feel like wringing his/ her neck.
The gospel raises the bar even higher, calling us to act in a loving way even when we are persecuted. That does not mean being a doormat but rather acting in a way that resists evil through self-sacrificial love that benefits all people. This self-sacrificial love seems appropriate to ponder on a day named after martyrs.
Take a moment to read the fifth chapter of Matthew as you think about Valentine's Day this week. It will make all the ooey-gooey mushy stuff more palatable and perhaps even redeem the day for those whose life circumstance make them want to scream at the very sight of red and pink hearts. Been there. You have my sympathies.
For those of us more fortunate at the moment, go ahead and bring back those fun exciting feelings of romance and love. But then give your loved one a kiss, not because of those emotions, but as a promise to act in a loving way even when the primary emotion of the moment is seething anger or deep seated irritation. That makes a Valentine's Day worth celebrating.