In the run-up to Christmas you probably heard on the news a couple of rather unfamiliar phrases, like Black Friday or Cyber-Monday. As a reminder to those keeping up with modern life, or as an explanation for those who don’t, these are terms used by retailers to boost their Christmas sales, to place some additional pressure on potential customers to spend. These two American customs have been imported recently as an addition to the rather more traditional British Boxing Day sales. But now Christmas is over, and hectic spending is over too. Business can flatten out all the way through to the Spring. Unless businesses invent another special occasion, that is. So they have. Bang in the middle of the potentially extended stagnant period of sluggish commerce we have St Valentine’s Day! Why has this celebration – made up for purely commercial purposes – become so popular? The answer seems to be simplistic, but actually that’s because it is simple: it appeals to our deepest craving – to be loved, and to respond with love.

If we look more closely for the reasons behind the ways we behave, we can discover that most of them are deeply rooted in our desire to be noticed, appreciated, respected, and understood. Or in one word: loved. This desire to be loved is the main driving force behind what we do and how we act, even if quite often we are not completely aware of that. This yearning for love can bring out the best or the worst in us; we can achieve the heights of our greatness, or the rock-bottom of our stupidity. We can overcome every adversity when feeling loved; without love nothing else really matters.

One of the things we unintentionally teach our children from a very early age is that love has to be earned and deserved; that somehow love is a reward for right behaviour. We bring them up in such a way in order to enhance their desirable attitudes and to eliminate the undesirable ones. Of course we don’t mean that; we love our children unconditionally. But by accident they learn the opposite. Something similar happens with our religious education, with our stress on doing good deeds as the way of getting deserved to be loved by God; the better we are morally, the more we are loved by God. Which is nonsense.

In our understanding of our faith we might mix up the cause and the result; and many of us do. And sometimes we have to step back a bit and put things in their right place. Your good deeds, your morally right stance, your proper attitudes are the results of being loved by God totally and unconditionally. By behaving and acting right you cannot make God love you more than he already does; by behaving and acting badly you cannot make God love you less or hate you. God doesn’t love you for what you do or don’t do. He loves you because of who you are: ‘You are my son; you are my daughter, the beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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