As the point of this writing on Valentine’s Day, 2015, and since my wife and I don’t wait for holidays to express love for each other, I had established a clear resolve not to have my writing affected by it. I would not be drawn into the romance vortex that pulls at every Tom, Dick, and Harriett with a keyboard this time of year. I was prepared to simply ignore the subject altogether, along with all the heart-shaped boxes of candy that seem to pop up on store shelves this time of year like toadstools in the yard after a rainy summer day. And I was ready to approach the latest wave of sappy greeting cards like I do the existence of marijuana joints—can’t help them being in the world, but have no intention of ever having one in my pocket. My Valentine’s Day plan was to happily push my way through the familiar gauntlet that stands between ideas in my head and words on a page as though the event didn’t exist at all.
My intended focus for this week’s edition of our ‘Admonitions for this Hour’ series was going to be the admonition to ‘be strong’, a directive God issued to His people repeatedly. But God, who is generally not that impressed with Hallmark holidays, had a different idea. He wouldn’t let me alone about Valentine’s Day and the whole love thing currently permeating the atmosphere. He seemed to be asking me, “Is there any admonition more greatly needed in this hateful, violent, abusive, pain filled, and anxiety-ridden world?” Since I couldn’t think of one, and since the Lord seemed to be flexing His editorial muscles and reminding me that He has sovereign ownership of the content around here, we’re making adjustments. Jesus’ admonition to “love one another as I have loved you” came to mind, but to address it within the constraints of this limited space loomed as an exercise in futility. Instead, I would like for us to take His command to be strong, and His command to love, and to consider them together, as a simple admonition to love with strength.
Whenever strength is claimed or questioned, someone immediately sets out to devise some means to test it. Strength in almost any category is characteristically seen as valuable, beneficial, and a quality to be sought after, often most fervently by those who don’t have it. Weakness, on the other hand, is not. Weakness is demeaned, hidden, rejected, and denied. Weakness is as repulsive to us as strength is compelling.
Discussing these concepts can make it seem as though they are totally disparate categories. Perhaps we shouldn’t do that. Notice, for instance, that there is no separate testing mechanism to measure weakness. There is only one factor under examination, and the concepts of strength and weakness are merely opposites on a continuum.
Strength and weakness are rather like light and darkness – and like truth and lies in this regard, weakness can only exist when the qualities that constitute strength have been removed or rendered inoperative. Strength always gets the applause, never weakness. Monuments aren’t raised to honor those who have excelled in weakness. Weakness isn’t welcomed as a physical descriptor, or a measure of mental ability, or a spiritual attribute, or a statement regarding moral or ethical character. Nobody wants their children to grow up to be puny and feeble, nor do they devise special training sessions to promote weakness. Even from the godless perspective of Darwinian evolutionists, weakness is derided as a negative trait, and the strong have the obligation to rid the environment of everything that possesses it. Now, if strength is so positive and so beneficial, why would any society purposely cultivate and glorify the weakest qualities of its most powerful asset? In that regard, let’s talk about love.
I received a sad call from a dear friend last week. It was a conversation like one of many in a heartbreaking series of similar discussions I’ve had with people over the years who were watching their marriage implode. They revolve around someone who solemnly promised before God in a public ceremony that his or her love would prevail with unshakable devotion until death parted them. Then that love somehow devolved into something emotionally lethal. Like so many of the others, that call was reporting the final, destructive punctuation point in a long sentence of mental, emotional, and spiritual abuses. The precipitating cause of almost every one of them, and the seductive prelude to the symphonies of misery that followed, have come to be popularized in this culture as ‘an affair’. That almost benign sounding relational poison is promoted, defended, and glorified in every form of entertainment in this culture. Why would we do that?
I have watched too many tears form in the eyes of too many fellow believers as they unfold yet another tale of harsh words and betrayal inflicted by some fellow church member who claimed to love them as part of the spiritual family they both shared. Rather than being preventive, the affirmations of love preceding those events help to cut a ragged path to the heart of the victim and leave wounds that no superficial religious bandage can heal. Personal ambitions, competitive attitudes, and a desire gain the spotlight at any cost are exalted in this culture, and that idea has invaded the Church. Love, humility, and compassion are sacrificed on the altar of image, recognition, and performance.
Somewhere near you, someone just discovered that the love she thought she had obtained from some guy who claimed to have it for her has become a new life in her womb —something neither of them planned — and that he doesn’t want. Now his most passionate desire regarding her is his desire to be free, and to get her to kill the child that his so-called ‘love’ produced.
If you want to measure love, measure it against love like this. In spite of a heart overwhelmed by horrifying realities of the cross awaiting Him, in the isolated loneliness of Gethsemane, Jesus said, “…not my will, but Yours be done.” Looking up through swollen eyes at the heartless men pounding spikes through His flesh, He said, “Father, forgive them…” It’s Valentine’s Day, and weak words promoting weak love are flying around everywhere draining strength from the heart of our nation. They remind me of latex gloves thrown about in a medical facility, cheap, readily accessible, stretch to fit most people—but thin, easily torn, and never intended to be worn very long. May God help us to love with strength, like He does.
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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