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Beyond hearts and roses

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In towns, cities, perhaps almost anywhere, lie cards with red hearts inscribed on them and fresh roses from the florists’ gardens and synthetic ones. On a day like this, such articles should obviously abound.

They symbolise love— that passionate feeling which people have towards each other.

And in sharing them, there is the fortification of unions and the strengthening of vows, some lovers, old and young, say from experience.

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While the day may not have a significant appreciation in the Christian community of present times, there are those who observe that it should allow for more passionate, compassionate and selfless acts towards loved ones and others.

“If Christians understand that love is about the other person, not about yourself, then the day can serve to strengthen one’s commitment to the other person,” Pastor Nick Chakwera of International Christian Assembly in Lilongwe says.

He notes that pure love is self-giving, selfless and sacrificial while impure love is about fulfilling selfish desires and lusts.

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“If spouses focus on what they can do to the other, not what the other person will do to them, then their unions will be stronger,” Chakwera counsels.

However, he argues that it is only in committed marriages can pure love be guaranteed.

“The rest is probably not love but selfish lust,” he declares.

That should, obviously, provide some food for thought to those who, despite understanding the true essence of love, take Valentine’s Day as a moment to express their lust.

For instance, witticisms circulating on social media about pairs getting each other pregnant or contracting dangerous diseases on the day are not mere figments of the imagination.

They are born out of realities, some later documented publicly or privately in their aftermaths which could be sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.

Yet the original story of St. Valentine has a lot of spiritual import, according to Pastor Chakwera and others that we have talked to.

“He believed in love and marriage to the point of death. In short, true love is something to die for. That’s spiritually rich,” Chakwera states.

From several other accounts of people who probably understand better the origin of Valentine’s Day, the consensus is that it is beyond just the giving of cards with hearts and roses and the wearing of red clothes.

“The cards and roses and all those articles which people share on Valentine’s Day are, of course, significant symbols of love. But true love must transcend them,” Fletcher Chirwa, a Lilongwe-based social worker argues.

He opines that much as giving is part of showing love, perhaps people must also engage in some deep reflection on how they can strengthen their unions.

“It is also important to appreciate that Valentine’s Day’s love is not limited to those with close loved ones. It may as well be worthwhile to visit the sick, the poor, the suffering and meet their needs in whatever way,” Chirwa adds.

That is a perspective held by others too including Pastor Rash Zimba of God’s Embassy in Mchinji who observes that true love must be expressed by giving.

From Christianity’s point of view, that giving is first manifested in the deed when God gave his son Jesus to save humankind, according to Zimba.

“To me, Valentine’s Day is a good thing because, in essence, it promotes love. This should be true love, love in the family, love for couples and love in communities.

“The Bible states in 1 John 4 verse 8 that he who does not love does not know God. So it is from God himself that love begins and we must love to know him,” Zimba says.

He, therefore, urges Christians to take part in celebrating Valentine’s Day through acts that will show ultimate love wherever they are.

According to Zimba, by promoting love, the day consequently strengthens unions and allows loved ones to review their commitments while not forgetting that God first loved his people.

Yet still, there are other expressions of love during Valentine’s Day which cannot be ignored.

For instance, as Roses Only, Australia’s leading floral retailernotes, in some parts of the world, the day is usually observed through expressing love between family members and friends, rather than romantic couples.

The store states on its website that many couples choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day with dinner, a picnic or special home-cooked meal.

“Many restaurants offer Valentine’s Day Dinner promotions and food is often presented with symbols of love like hearts and flowers. Another popular Valentine’s Day activity is to indulge in a luxury hotel stay in a beautiful location, allowing a couple to get away from it all and enjoy some quality time together.

“Marriage proposals are also popular on Valentine’s Day, and it is often chosen as the perfect day to express their love and commitment,” it says.

Roses Only also notes that some marriage proposals are delivered very creatively, such as after climbing to the top of a mountain.

This should be particularly the case with modern couples that often seek some unique dimension to their unions.

Lilongwe-based musician and music producer Khumbo Kaliwo and his wife Jessie who is a lead vocalist in popular choir, Great Angels, say to them valentine is about loving and loving and loving.

“Much as love does not have any special day when it can be expressed, Valentine’s Day is a unique moment for us to reflect on our journey together. We have to grow together and every opportunity to look back at where we are coming from is a unique one,” Khumbo says.

On her part, Jessie says she believes sharing is supposed to be an important part of celebrating Valentine’s Day, especially when there are many people in need.

“As we express our affection to our loved ones, we must also remember others who are lacking some basic needs. To me, that is Valentine’s Day extended and it is an important dimension especially to us Christians,” she says.

And as both pastors Chakwera and Zimba note, Christians must take Valentine’s Day as it should be: a day to love and make unions stronger and a day to spread the love through giving.

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