Lots of people, mostly men, will struggle to find the right words over the next few days. When it comes to talking about love we can all find it challenging to express the way we feel.
The struggle is understandable, though. I love my spouse, but I also love my favorite sports teams. I love my family, but I also love ice cream. Love can be tricky to express.
The ancient Greeks may have been ahead of us when it comes to expressing love. They used different words for different kinds of love. They used the word philia to express the loyal love shared by family members. They used eros when they expressed love that leads to holding hands, hugging and kissing.
One of the words for love used in the New Testament is agape. I think of this love as “in spite of” love. Jesus showed agape love as he came to die for sinful people though he had no sin of his own. He knows about our wrongs but loves us in spite of them as he calls us to forgiveness.
Not only is agape used to describe God’s love for people, it’s also the love we’re supposed to share with one another. Agape love is expressed through sacrifice, forgiveness, service and perseverance. It is more than words. It is love in action.
Maybe this is why love is so hard to express. When I remember how many times my wife has been patient with me or been quick to offer forgiveness, I struggle to believe that a simple box of chocolates can adequately express my gratitude.
I’ve been sick a few times over our marriage. A few years ago I had a stroke. For a short time I couldn’t speak. But I could hear. I listened to her talk with doctors and nurses about the best plan of action to care for me. When I was weak, she was being strong for me. How many flowers can do I have to buy to express my thankfulness for her love? I don’t think I could ever buy enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be buying flowers this Valentine’s Day, but they’re not enough. Our world longs for love because we long for love. We’ve been created to receive love and to give love. It’s one of the ways we reflect the image of God.
BRANDON PORTER is communications director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.