Valentine’s Day can be hard for single people, but I think it’s a myth to say it’s only hard for single people. We offer up what we hope are words of encouragement and comfort to our single brothers and sisters around this heart-covered holiday—a season that can sometimes feel excruciatingly painful. But what do we say to those who are in difficult marriages, or are separated from their loved one because of deployment or work needs, or are simply wondering what’s missing in their relationship? Those who are married or dating need reminders of what God intended love and fellowship to look like for his people as much as singles do.
So let’s address some of these myths of Valentine’s Day together. What does Scripture say about the L-word?
Myth #1: Romantic Love Is the Most Important Form of Love
It’s hard to argue that society has made an idol out of romantic love. If you don’t believe me, just take a quick gander at our movies, music, TV shows, and multi-million dollar wedding industry—or better yet, consider that we have a whole day marked off on our calendars to celebrate romantic love (not even marriage, or committed relationships––just love!). But it’s possible that the Christian community has put romantic love on a pedestal as well. We rightly value good marriages and the families they can lead to, but we’d be wrong to think that the marriage relationship between two humans is the most important love that can exist.
The first, greatest, and best example of love we have is Christ, who laid down his life for sinners who still hate him. Jesus himself said: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus never had a physically intimate relationship on earth—he never got married during his ministry, never experienced “romantic love.” Christ’s bride is the church. If there’s a marriage and a love we should cling to in our fading mortal days, is it not this love and this marriage? Is there a love better than this?
Myth #2: A Romantic Partner Will Fulfill All Your Needs
It’s easy to confuse the complementary nature of marriage (Gen. 2:18–24) with the idea of completeness. When the Bible talks about being complete, it’s a spiritual completeness—trained in righteousness and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16–17), steadfast in faith (James 1:3–4), and fearing God (Eccl. 12:13). There are many ways romantic partners can edify, encourage, and help build up their loved ones in Christ and be a means of sanctification, but they can’t hope to “complete” their significant other. In Scripture, more than we hear about the sharpening and softening that may happen in marriage, we hear about it among brothers and sisters in Christ (Acts 15:32; Rom. 1:12; Eph. 4:15–16; 1 Thess. 2:12, 5:10–12).
A romantic partner won’t fulfill all your needs. They can’t even fulfill your most vital need—salvation in Christ. And for this outworking of your salvation, for your sanctification and growth, you need the church. How unfair it would be to expect your partner to do alone what requires the work of the whole body of Christ?
Myth #3: Friendships Are Not as Fulfilling as Marriages
Not only does the Bible highlight our role in the body of Christ and the fellowship that comes with that, but it also depicts some truly beautiful friendships.
Christ enjoys the companionship of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and weeps so deeply when he sees Lazarus’s grave that those around say, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36). John is consistently referred to as the “disciple Jesus loved” and it’s to him that Jesus entrusts the care of his mother while dying on the cross. You can imagine how deep and tender those relationships must have been.
Similarly, one of the most elaborated emotional relationships we see between humans in Scripture is not Ruth and Boaz, but David and Jonathan. 1 Samuel 18 begins, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” Their friendship involves war, treachery, and assassination attempts on David’s life. Eventually, Jonathan goes behind his father’s back to help David escape King Saul. Their parting moments are heart-wrenching:
After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” (1 Sam. 20:41–42)
Paul was also a man with many deep friendships. The close of his letter to the saints in Rome is filled with greetings to brothers and sisters in Christ, which includes these endearments: “Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (Rom. 16:12b–13, emphasis added).
God saw it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18), so he made not only union between a man and woman, but from that union he brought forth a wellspring of other humans with whom we may share this life. Whatever your relationship status is this Valentine’s Day, you have reason to rejoice—God made us for fellowship, he richly supplies that need within the body of Christ, and he provided for us his own Son, whose ultimate act of love unites us with our Father in heaven as well. This is true love, indeed.