George Bowers Sr.: The gift of love
Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday when we celebrate one of God’s greatest gifts, that of love. Aside from the boon for florists, this day also reminds us to give special attention to our closest fellow humans whom we may otherwise take for granted. I pray that each reader has someone who they can share this special day with or that they will sense the all-encompassing love of God.
As we observe Valentine’s Day, however, let us not forget that love, romance, and marriage are all God’s ideas. He created each of these for our pleasure and blessing, and in order to enjoy them fully, we would be wise to seek his advice on how they are to function.
Looking to his word for this advice, we often quote I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, at weddings and anniversaries. It is important for us to realize, however, that the Greek word for love used in that passage is agape, which is a type of selfless love that sacrifices and gives for the benefit of the other party. It is love that is centered on the other person and not oneself. In fact, it does what is best for the beloved even if great personal cost is required.
This agape is the very type of love that moved the almighty to give his only son to save us. So too, we husbands are told in Ephesians 5 to follow Jesus’ example and show this same type of giving, serving, sacrificial love to our wives. I remember brother Herman Gochenour who faithfully visited his failing wife daily in the nursing home even though it was often painful for him to do so. He personally received little if anything in return, but his commitment to God and to her enabled him to show her agape love.
Too often, our love relationships are built on what we can get out of them rather than what we can give. Consequently, when our loved ones fail to meet our expectations for our personal satisfaction, we clock out and search for someone else who can. Such a strategy is doomed to frustration and failure for no human can meet all our needs and make us happy. Looking to others for what only God can provide is a recipe for profound disappointment and distress.
However, when we begin to focus our love on the other person and seek to do what pleases him or her, there is a satisfaction that returns to our own hearts. And when a husband and wife each do this for the other without concentrating on each other’s shortcomings, the beautiful vine of happiness begins to grow in their marriage that will produce much delicious and enduring fruit.
Russian Novelist Leo Tolstoy once said, “What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility,” and Christian writer Dave Meurer puts it this way, “A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” Alas, there are no perfect people or perfect couples. Instead, drawing on the perfect father and learning from the perfect son, we can begin to know what true agape love is and only then begin to share it with someone else.
As we celebrate this holiday of love, thank God for his precious gifts of love: his love for you, your ability to love someone else, and the love of others for you. And invite him to enable us to love in the way he intended; to love like Jesus who inspired the Apostle Paul to write, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Happy Valentine’s Day! George
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at email@example.com.