Each year, during the month of February, we celebrate Saint Valentine's Day; a day we set aside to honor love and romance. While the factual origins of the holiday are shrouded in mystery, it evokes nonetheless wonderful sentiments of joy and exhilaration especially to those who are in love.
Valentines, cards that declare ones friendship or love for another, will abound everywhere this month from kindergarten classes to executive boardrooms; some lovers will celebrate their affections with grand gestures but most will send candy or flowers to their sweethearts.
Clever romantics may compose a sonnet or two; verses of prose or lyrical rhyme to render more clearly their affections for the objects of their inspiration. Indeed, those who have loved know what a joy it can be to love, and to be loved in return.
Love, however, is more than a wonderful feeling; an emotional high that we experience for those we are attracted to. Love, in its purest form, is really so much more.
The dictionary defines love simply as a feeling of strong affection for an individual, which may be based on kinship, sexual attraction, admiration or enthusiasm. The fraternal love we feel for family and friends, which is usually platonic, is very different from a more possessive love that is erotic in nature and based on sexual desire. Neither of these, however, reaches the pinnacle of pure love, which is Divine in origin.
Divine love is self-giving, and it is not based on merit. The term used to describe this love is the Greek word Agape. It is the most frequently used word for love in the New Testament. Agape describes God's love toward His Son, Jesus Christ, and us, His creation.
Two words beautifully express God's love for His creation: They are "God gave!" What did He give? He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of mankind. His sacrificial love made it possible for men and women, boys and girls, regardless of their earthly origins or limitations, to have a relationship with Him, the God of the universe. God's love is pure, and it is based on sacrifice. I believe Oswald Chambers, writing in his book, Moral Foundations, explained it best when he wrote:
"Sacrifice...is the exuberant passionate love-gift of the best I have to the one I love best."
God gave His best; we, who have accepted His gift, received His best. Our response should be one of gratitude, which may be expressed best through our conduct. Since God does not make demands, we should endeavor to show our love and appreciation to Him through respect and obedience.
God does not demand He cherishes, nourishes and instructs us; He asks, through His word, that we listen and obey to become more like Christ, our Savior.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, "Love does not dominate; it cultivates," and this is what God does for His children.
When Saint Paul the Apostle penned his first letter to the people of Corinth, he included four, now famous, verses that clearly delineate pure love.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. 5 Love is not rude, it is not selfish, and it cannot be made angry easily. Love does not remember wrongs done against it. 6 Love is never happy when others do wrong, but it is always happy with the truth. 7 Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits. 8 Love will never end.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
(Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version, Revised Edition, copyright © 1987, 1999, 2005 World Bible Translation Center. All rights reserved.)
Great words meant to encourage and inspire all of us to love as God loves: purely and sacrificially. Happy Valentine's Day!
NOTE: For information on the history behind Valentine's Day, and how we began the current custom of exchanging love notes, check out these web sites.
History.com - History of Valentine's Day
Wikipedia.com - History of Valentine's Day