Valentine's Day is a time where people express their love by giving gifts of flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals, jewelry, clothing, and, of course, cards. Remember those little valentine cards we use to get at school--the ones where you separated along the perforated line with the corny sayings that expressed your love for someone?

First Corinthians 13 is a passage of the Bible frequently referred to as "the love chapter." You may have heard it read aloud during a wedding ceremony. In it the Apostle Paul encouraged people in Corinth to express their love for one another by the way they acted. He said they act out their love by being patient, kind, not envying, not boasting, not being proud, not being rude, not being self-seeking, not being easily angered, and not keeping records of wrong. He further said they show love by telling the truth, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping, and always persevering.

On Valentine's Day we express our love through various acts, but what is love? You have heard the expression, "love at first sight." Does someone look across a room and suddenly fall in love?

I would suggest that this is not a true definition of love. While those impulsive feelings may be real, what this person is mistaking for love is simply a feeling. In order to love someone a relationship is required. How can you be in love with someone you have never even met? Although this attraction may be the first step in developing a relationship, it is not love.

As a Christian, I get my truth from the Bible. The Bible says that "God is love and that He loves us from everlasting to everlasting." This means before we ever existed He loved us. Knowing this we can logically conclude that love is a choice. God chose to love us before we ever did one thing, good or bad. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19). He chose to love us even when we were "by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:3). "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).

Not only does the Bible say that it was God who set up the marriage institution, but it says that "God is love" (1 John 4:16) and that "love comes from God." (1 John 4:7). Like God's love, our love is both a decision and a commitment we make. "Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person," says noted author and family therapist, Dr. Norman Wright. It's a choice we make. Although love includes feelings it is much more, because feelings come and go. There will be times when you don't always feel love for your partner. But knowing that love is a decision we choose to make, and not simply a feeling, will help stabilize our emotions when the feelings of love are absent.

Bob Armstrong is pastor at The Willows Community Church in Langley, holds an M.A. in Counselling, is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, and is co-author of the Couple Care Pre-Marriage Manual and "Along The Way", a guide for married couples.


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