What is Real Love?

The Media was recently filled with reports of young love gone wrong, Amie Buhari writes that churches should allow such stories to re-inspire how they communicate the subject of love and relationships to their youth

Megan Stammers is reported to have said she was “glad to be back home” after running away with her schoolteacher, Jeremy Forrest. They were in a relationship. They say they are in love. A 30-year-old married teacher started an affair with a 15-year-old student in his school, and allowed it to develop to the extent of making a decision to be together, despite breaking the law and moral standards.

I feel very passionately about this story, because I found myself in a situation with a teacher when I was a student. Unlike Megan, my situation never got that far, however I know that, like Megan, I too was glad to be back home that evening. Love – or the illusion of it – can be extremely powerful. At such a young age, if love is mistreated, it can be so damaging to a young heart.

There seem to be so many examples recently of young people falling prey to misguided actions, which are entirely based upon emotions and the inability to handle them.

I worry for our young people. With the whole world constantly re-defining the attributes and conditions of love, how do we enable our young people to see the difference between real love and just emotions, and the damage it can cause? And, more importantly, how do we teach them true love – God’s love?

We had a teacher in our school. I had always been mature for my age, and he and I would talk often. We had a friendship. The proposition came as he drove me home one evening from a school function. That’s as far as it went, but had I decided to respond, I could have ended up running off to France like Megan, thinking that I was somehow ‘in love’. Several things stopped me that night: the fact that I was sensible enough to know that, in every way, it was fundamentally wrong; that my teacher was in a relationship, and I knew that he was clearly not a committed man and, most of all, I knew that it was not in keeping with the morals my mum and God had brought me up on.

When I arrived home, I replayed the night over and over in my head, recalling all his promises and enticing words, then measuring them up to my morals and to his behaviour in the role of ‘teacher’ which he willingly took on. I was so glad to be home, unscathed by the possibility of what might have been, for I knew in all my maturity that it would not have ended in the Hollywood fairytale ending life often portrayed to me at that age, despite whatever the immaturity of my emotions and attraction to being ‘wanted’ were telling me. I believe that there is a part of Megan that felt that too, when she arrived home; that hiding out in another country, separated from family and friends, lies and cover-ups wasn’t how ‘love’ was supposed to feel.

A lot of young people, however, don’t have such a strong conviction or even the bare willpower to resist. We need to provide our young people with the tools to understand the complexities of love, emotions and lust, and the open environment for them to healthily discuss the topic. This is something that the Church has often shied away from, but now more than ever needs to be on the agenda for our young people.

“We need to provide our young people with the tools to understand the complexities of love, emotions and lust, and the open environment for them to healthily discuss the topic.”

Another recent story in the news told of how Junior Nkwelle, 15, was stabbed to death by a 14-year-old girl. It is thought that they may have previously been in a relationship or that he liked her. It was said to be a ‘crime of passion’ by a 14-year-old girl!

So, how do we begin to unravel such a subject with our young people, when we ourselves still struggle with it? Well, it always has to come back to the Word of God. We need to lovingly hammer into our young people the attributes of love, as set out in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. We need to openly question, challenge and give space to debate the actions of those our young people look to, including ourselves. We need to display God’s love at all times, so our young people grow up seeing practical examples of it in their lives. We need to explore with our young people the self-sacrificing love of Jesus for us, and how we can respond to it. We need to be honest in our experiences and struggles with lust and uncontrolled emotions, teaching our young how to distinguish, control and use them positively. We need to put into practice the actual power of the Word of God, giving us all the ability to flee from the devil.

There will always be people who will want to damage our young people’s perspective of love in some way. We can’t completely stop our kids from making mistakes, but we can give them the tools and knowledge to love with a godly heart. This won’t happen overnight, but thankfully ‘Love is patient’ (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Amie Buhari is a youth leader and actress

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