Valentine’s Day is coming up! For elementary-age kids, Valentine’s Day likely means they’ll exchange chalky candy and tiny, cheesy, store-bought cards with their classmates. For youth, Valentine’s Day might mean going on a date, giving or receiving romantic gifts, or feeling very aware of their single status or their strained relationship.
Regardless of how the young people you serve are marking the holiday, they’re likely receiving a lot of messages about how being loved romantically is the ultimate measure of their worth and that romantic love is best expressed through material gifts. These messages can be alienating for a lot of kids for a lot of different reasons, and it’s our job as church professionals to counter these messages with messages of our own.
First of all, our worth is located in our identity as children of God who are created in God’s image, not in the way others feel about us. There were plenty of people who didn’t like Jesus, after all. Jesus sometimes spoke to crowds of thousands, and he was welcomed like a hero when he entered Jerusalem shortly before his death, but the crowds that loved him turned against him within a week and asked for him to be killed. Even his closest friends abandoned, denied, and betrayed him. If you are lonely, if you’re unpopular, if your friends aren’t acting the way friends should, if people are talking behind your back, you’re in good company. And while things may improve for you in less dramatic ways than they did for Jesus with the resurrection, things will improve. This is a message your youth may need to hear this Valentine’s Day.
The second message we need to give the young people we serve is that real love from one human being to another is not about buying someone roses or chocolates. When we in the church think about love, we may think of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” This is a good place to start—a better place to start, certainly, than the materialistic messages that claim love is all about gifts that people buy for each other at stores. Yet we need to be careful with how we read and talk about a love that “endures all things.” We must have this non-boastful, non-arrogant love for ourselves first and foremost, not to hold ourselves above others but to keep ourselves safe from abuse and to leave situations that become toxic. We are not required to endure these things. Equipped with this love for ourselves, we can proceed into healthy, life-giving relationships with each other, honest and real relationships that rejoice in the truth.
So, as we approach Valentine’s Day, remind your children and youth that their value is not located in their popularity or relationship status. Teach them that it’s better to be single than to be in an abusive relationship, and help them recognize the signs of abuse. A holiday about love should make people feel included and valued, not alienated.