“What’s So Romantic About Love?”
By Pastor Ron Buxton
We’re just around the corner from Valentine’s Day. And in case you’d forget, the stores were decorated immediately after Christmas! Years past, I wrote about that mysterious man named Saint Valentine, and his ironic fate of martyrdom for officiating illegal weddings for Roman soldiers in the 3rd century. Today, I want to discuss a specific word that we think we already know: “romance”. And it’s nothing like its meaning when it was first introduced into the English language.
Nowadays, we think about something “romantic” like the Hallmark movies, or a couple enjoying a candle-lit dinner. But that’s not its original meaning. Rather, it was an Arts and Literature movement that peaked in the late 18th century as an exclusively aesthetic (or emotional) focus upon all of reality. The key word is exclusive. Prior to this, folks understood life from religion or from the hard sciences. But with Romanticism, the individual’s feeling–and not some expert knowledge–dictated meaning to life.
In the English-speaking world, William Shakespeare’s works had already become quite popular by then. And that fueled that word “romantic” as it transitioned into its current usage. Today’s article draws from that idea. You see, the love relationship between men and women should be “romantic”. But that modern concept, unfortunately, has actually undermined “love” as it’s properly defined in the Bible. Hear me out. Please don’t stop reading yet.
Love is so much more than a feeling. Truth be told, the whole “falling in love” phenomenon is really selfish. How so? Well, “falling in love” has everything to do with how that other person makes YOU feel inside. It’s the butterflies in the stomach feeling. Right? However, a mature love is not selfish. It’s the kind of love described in 1st Corinthians 13–and it has zero reference to “feelings”. To the contrary, it has an unshakable commitment towards the beloved. “Romantic”? Maybe not 24/7. But, nonetheless, not fickle nor easily discouraged amid life’s struggles. And that’s why too many marriages fail today.
Believe it–or not–couples were happily married for centuries BEFORE Shakespeare told us anything about romantic love. And, more than that, the failure rates were so much lower. Get this. I even had an African classmate in college whose marriage was arranged by parents. And he thought that it was crazy to trust one’s own preferences and a physical attraction in choosing somebody to marry!
Until recently, people weren’t so mobile. Often they’d get married to somebody within their hometowns. And parents would encourage those marriages in the best interest of the extended family, or even family business. Now, those days are probably long gone. But we must understand a love that’s not exclusively “romantic”. Otherwise, that marriage is probably doomed to failure. Why? Romance can actually kill love! Lasting marriages require something more: an unselfish love. And the God–who Himself is defined as “love”–has shown us a better way in the pages of the Bible! Read 1st Corinthians 13. Happy Valentine’s Day!