Saturday, 04 December 2021

On Valentine’s Day, remember enduring qualities of love

ON February 11 last year the NSPCC, a major children’s charity, released a report which told us, among

ON February 11 last year the NSPCC, a major children’s charity, released a report which told us, among other things, that 40 per cent of teenage girls report being pressured into having sex.

That is not simply what may happen at school, or college — it can reach right into the home via the internet.

Controlling online behaviour by partners, through constant checking of their social network activity, sending threatening messages or telling them who they could be “friends“ with, was closely associated with young people experiencing violence or abuse from their partner offline. The pressure can be unrelenting.

Three days later, on Valentine’s Day, a blockbuster film was released, alongside a huge advertising and marketing campaign, telling us that submitting to male coercion and power is sexy. Fifty shades of stupid?

I hope you won’t write this off as simply another cleric wittering on about the church’s favourite obsession — sex. As a society, and at times in the church, we are in a state of terrible confusion about love.

In some minds we see the separation of love and sex, so that sex becomes a hobby or a transaction, with some pretty lamentable results.

In other minds we see the identification of love and sex, which is a sad diminishing of all that love can be and do for us and damages many lives.

I want to suggest that in all our thinking about love and sex, a good yardstick is "Am I describing something I would want for my child? Is what I am doing, thinking, espousing in this area of life something I would wish for this child whom I love?"

Many have written and sung and versified about love and its excitements and importance, but none has improved on the clarity and sanity of what Paul wrote in his first letter to a sophisticated and sex-obsessed church in Corinth.

Love is patient and kind;

Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrong- doing but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:4ff)

Who would not want their child to be loved like that, who would not want their child to find a partner who would treat them with that kind of strength, gentleness and continuing hopefulness and forgiveness, and learn to love like that themselves?

Where did Paul, the Bible’s answer to Victor Meldrew, learn this recipe for love? When he understood that he himself had been loved in precisely that way.

When he looked at Jesus, who sacrificed himself to rebuild our relationship with God, he saw with the utmost clarity what love truly means and he knew that love to be aimed straight at him.

He learned to love from Jesus. Christian or not, we can all do that.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

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