Okay, I will get this off my chest before going any further. I’ve never understood why we as a society look for guidance from those who are, generally speaking, the least likely to be able to provide it. I know this seems horrendously judgmental, but also, I believe it is true. What am I talking about? I recently read a scholarly article about the influence celebrities have on us, and it truly is a bit mind-boggling. If you have any doubts about its validity, research how much an actor, entertainer, or professional athlete is paid to endorse everything from diapers to dentures. If these folks didn’t have significant sway in what we buy, what we do, or what we believe, there is no way these top companies would be shelling out the big bucks.
They became mega corporations for a reason.
Celebrities’ superhuman influence doesn’t bother me much when it comes to shaping our society’s fashion or sneaker choice. But it irks me to no end when we seek guidance from this group on the big questions.
Like: “Why do we exist?” “What is our purpose?” Or “What is love?” (Including romantic love…Valentine’s Day is upon us, after all.) Please understand, I am no puritanical curmudgeon. I enjoy pop music, especially from the 80s. Who doesn’t love big hair, screeching guitar, or leather leggings?! And I do believe many of these vocal artists, from “Journey” to Justin Bieber, are able to capture the pubescent heart-wranglings perfectly.
But as Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “When I was a child…I thought like a child…but when I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” In other words, sooner than later, we have to grow up. This is particularly true when it comes to love, including the love we have for our spouse. If we don’t, we will be in a world of hurt. Why? The form of love that pop singers have been crooning about since crooning began is sensual, primal, emotional love. The topsy-turvy, up-and-down variety. I am not saying they are “all out of love” (“Air Supply”) as they indeed describe an element of the “L” word. But to quote Steve Winwood, “Bring me to the Higher love.”
If we really want to “know what love is” (“Foreigner”), its fullest expression that will lead to a lasting marriage, we are best served turning to Love itself, God, rather than to “Spotify” or a celebrity’s blog or vlog. God in Christ taught us who to love (our enemies, our neighbors, and pretty much everyone in between), then showed us what love is by dying on the cross for us. Paul, through God’s Spirit, summed it up: love is “patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, selfless, doesn’t keep record of other’s mistakes….” 1 Cor 13:4-5. A biblical scholar would point out that Paul was not specifically addressing love between a husband and wife here, but it applies all the same. Believe me, after 26 years of marriage, this is the kind of love that will enable you to grow old together rather than consulting a divorce attorney.
So, what is the point of all that? Celebrities and professional athletes may or may not be the most reliable source to show us how to wear our hair, which shoes might get us the most attention, or which stocks to buy. And Pop vocalists might hit many of the right notes when it comes to describing adolescent romantic angst. But when it comes to answering life’s biggest questions, these folks are often “dancing in the dark” (Bruce Springstein) as much as, if not more than, we are. So as we ponder on this Valentine’s Day what kind of love will last a lifetime, I urge us to look no further than the One who didn’t only preach it, but lived it out. His variety of love is the type of love that will “lift us up where we belong.” (Joe Cocker, J. Warners).