Show Me What Love Is


“Be my Valentine” say the scarlet red greeting cards. Maybe you might send or receive one this year?

The origins of Valentine’s Day are unclear. Some stories come from the days of the Roman Empire when Christians were persecuted. Valentine is typically portrayed as a Bishop, performing secret marriages for soldiers for whom wives were forbidden.

These legends caught the imagination of subsequent generations from Chaucer and Shakespeare to modern mass produced greeting cards with their poetry, cupids and hearts, given with flowers and chocolates to loved ones. There is a certain old fashioned charm about all this.

However showing affection and forging relationships has been transformed by the worldwide web and the internet. Communication is instant and intimate: emails and texting, Facebook and online dating are commonplace.

But what are the boundaries and when are they crossed? We recall the stories of unwanted advances via Friends Re-united. Parents today understandably fret over teenage sexting and potential abusers gaining access to youngsters. Online conversations that take a sinister form are highlighted in a new campaign featuring a TV advertisement targeting child exploitation.

Technology has forced us to recalibrate what we consider is decent, moral and legal. We find ourselves a million miles away from the loving sentiments of the average Valentine card.

“I want to know what love is” sang the chart-topping band Foreigner. The wistful music and the lyrics strike a chord because they ask an age old question for people who crave secure and loving relationships.

Love has many dimensions: everyday human empathy, friendship and affection, ‘blood is thicker than water’ family love and erotic and sexual love. There is a world of difference between ‘the greater love that no man has than to lay down his life for another’ and the explicit cinema screen love scene.

When I conduct weddings a reading from St Paul is often chosen. He wrote that “love is patient and kind, not envious and arrogant, love keeps no score of wrongs … love endures all things, love never ends”. There is probably no Valentine card which quite captures that enduring quality. Love is not just for Valentine’s Day but for every day.

Bishop Nigel’s  article in the Courier, a widely read daily Scottish newspaper published in Dundee published 13th February 2016.

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