Dancing in the Minefields

Not a whole lot is known about Valentine, except that he aided the Christians and that he was martyred for his deeds. The Roman Catholic church made him the patron saint of intended couples and, in general, love, which is where our odd ideas of 'Valentine's Day' have come from, no doubt. But what I find most worthy of note is the very fact that this man in another time and place not only lived but also died for the name of Christ. Hundreds and hundreds like him also were brought to the point of shedding blood for their love of the name of Christ.

What is love? The essence of love is to seek the good of its object. In multitudinous ways, throughout our lives, we display this love in varying degrees for the people around us and, too, toward our God himself. I need not go into detail. If you love anyone, even yourself, you have displayed your love in some way. But in this body we cannot escape that nagging, clinging selfishness that taints our warmest expressions of love. Somewhere in the loving, 'I' am always there, and not in the way I should be. 'I' always manage to impose my own image on the thing or person I am loving, so that it is not purely myself loving that other thing or person, but myself loving myself as well.

we are frail
we are fearfully and wonderfully made
forged in the fires of selfish passion
choking on the fumes of selfish rage
and with these our hells and our heavens
so few inches apart
we must be awfully small
and not as strong as we think we are

We mustn't kid ourselves. Love is something the Spirit must cultivate, and not something we can stir up to any purity within ourselves. In our most ardent, heartfelt desire for good for whatever it is we love, the law that is at work in our members infuses it with selfishness.

Is this an insurmountable obstacle to love? Yes and no. On the one hand, there is the law of our minds which the Spirit has renewed after a heavenly fashion, but it is at constant contention with the law of death that is at work in our members. While we are in this body of death, we will not be free of this struggle. But by way of great encouragement of truth, Paul assures us of the power of the Spirit's work within us:

[Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.]

The fruit of love, nurtured by the Spirit, is capable of growing in our souls; and indeed, history has shown that this fruit best flourishes in the desert, in some of the most inhospitable climates. And what is the most selfless gesture of love a man can give to another, to his God himself, than to offer his very life? Among our heroes, those who stab us most deeply with an aching joy are those who die for the sake of others - for the sake of the innocent. Why? For love. For love and the love of all good things. No one wants to imagine a world in which not a single man will offer his life for the sake of that which is righteous, that which is more truly worth dying for. We universally acknowledge this to be the greatest test as well as the greatest display of love: to die on behalf of another.

In the late shadow of another Valentine's Day, I find myself thinking of these things. It sheds light on the well-known passage "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Here is a love so deep and wild that it prompted the very Son of Man to die on behalf of its object. Here is Love Itself, eternal and unquenchable, reckless and certain.

This is the sort of love we cultivate. This is the sort of love that drove men and women singing to the scaffold. It is more than a trite "dying for what we believe in." It is dying "for the love of Heaven," dying for truth, dying for our lives, dying for the life and name of Christ. On Valentine's Day, I remember all those who so loved the Person and Name of Christ as to give up their lives for him. Not as though, in so doing, they could in any way save the Person and Name of Christ, but for their extreme love they could not be brought to live without him, and if they had to die, then they would die for him. This is love. This is devotion.

The story lives on among our heroes, men and women in storybooks who give up their lives on behalf of friend and family. These stories are pictures of the truth of love. But there is an even closer picture, another sort of laying down one's life which each and every one of us goes through every day. Wherever Providence has placed us, the people of God around us, people whom we love, are people for whom we must daily lay down our lives. There is, perhaps, more danger for pride in this spiritual martyrdom, but to hell with pride! By God's Spirit of grace we will learn to die to ourselves day by day, and as our love grows more and more live to God and the people of God. It won't be easy. Death is never easy.

'cause the only way to find your life
is to lay your own life down
and I believe it's an easy price
for the life that we have found

and we're dancing in the minefields
we're sailing in the storm
this is harder than we dreamed
but I believe that's what the promise is for

There is nothing frivolous or sentimental about this love. This is love to the death and beyond. This is a love in which the selfish self dies and is born into an honest, frank, passionate frame of mind. This love is serious. It is up to God to determine, for God knows best, but surely a moment of death is easier to bear than years' worth of days of dying, dying after dying, and walking always through the hardships and aching joys of love. For all of you, all of us everywhere, everywhen, who are called to this love and cultivate it, knowing the cost -

the splendour, the love, and the strength be upon you.

1 ripostes

  1. It may sound strange to say that love is about death, but in this world it is. It's so true, Jenny, that even though we may not all have to literally put our heads on the chopping block for our beloved ones, we are still called to die for them moment by moment. Love is giving. Love is sacrifice. Love is pain. But more than that, above all that, love is what life is. I don't think we realize what a treasure we've been given. It's like ... like molten gold. It burns our hands to touch, but it is unutterably precious, for all that.

    Here is a love so deep and wild that it prompted the very Son of Man to die on behalf of its object. Here is Love Itself, eternal and unquenchable, reckless and certain.

    That is so strong that it hurts.