On February 14th, we observe Saint Valentine’s Day (shortened to Valentine’s Day), holiday honoring the Christian martyrs of ancient Rome, who were named Saint Valentine. This later became a day associated with “romantic love” in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer during the Middle Ages when the tradition of “courtly love” flourished. And the celebration of love on Valentine’s Day continues today as lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectioneries, and sending Valentine greeting cards. It is a day that many regard as a day to celebrate true love!
Not only has the original observance of Saint Valentine’s Day been lost with time, but so has the meaning of true love! And if one were to really understand true love, then one would understand why it is a day to give glory to God and honor martyrdom!
But first, what is love? If one were to ask this question, most of the answers given would link love to lust which is very inward and selfish. However, the Bible gives us a glimpse at true love — a love that is unselfish and directed towards others. A love that is eternal!
The apostle John in his first epistle explains simply that God is love and love is God (1 John 4:16).
The Greek word for “love” in 1 John 4:16 is “Agape.” It is selfless, unconditional love — the highest of the four types of love described in the Bible. It perfectly describes the kind of love Jesus has for His Father and for His followers.
In John’s Gospel Chapter 15, verse 13, Jesus uttered these words: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It is the same Agape love used to describe God in John’s first epistle. It not only identifies Jesus as the one true God, but it shows that the love of God is a sacrificial love. And not long after Christ uttered these words, He showed “agape” love by laying down his life for the sins of the world.
As John explained in his first epistle, “This is how we know what AGAPE is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us….” (1 John 3:16, NIV). This extravagant demonstration of Agape love was for you and for me. Makes you wonder how anyone could ever walk away from a love like this! God demonstrated his love for us (for the world) when He came into the world to become like us so we could become more like Him. He identified with us. He came to free us, and to teach us how to love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
True love is from God; it does not exist apart from him. For a marriage to survive, there must be true love in it. God must be the center of it. If God is at the center, then there is true love – a love that can never die. We can stop it from growing or choose to ignore it, but it will always be there. That love is what sustains and protects a marriage and family. Jesus said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:9 NIV). And, as Jesus later stated, “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV)
To define love is to define God. And the Apostle Paul does just that in his letter to the church in Corinth. He explains what love is and what love isn’t — in a sense, he tells us what God is and what God isn’t. He writes: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV).
I have heard it said that the Bible is a love letter. No better description could fit the Word of God. The Old Testament and New Testament point to Christ who is LOVE. The Bible is God’s love letter to us – especially the Law, which some have come to view as strict rules of living.
One day a so-called expert in religious law approached Jesus and asked “What is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Jesus not only explained the greatest commandment, but he summarized the Law in one word: Love!
Jesus replied to this teacher of the law: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’“ (Matthew 22:36-39, NIV).
Jesus commands us to love — to love God and to love others (even our enemies – Matthew 5:44).
This is truly sacrificial! For is this not what Christ demonstrated on the cross at Calvary? To love, even our enemies, is to demonstrate a sacrificial love — a love that could only come from God. Every time I read the apostle John’s first epistle, my mind and heart are drawn to Christians serving among the persecuted church surrendering their lives to love others and modeling the love of God. It is here where Satan is fully at war with the church. For if God is pure love, then Satan is pure evil. But as the Apostle John explains in his first epistle, perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). This love compels them to lay down their lives like Jesus – to forsake all with no fear. And this sacrificial love that these brothers and sisters model to the world drives out the fear and darkness that Satan has cast on these areas of the world through religion, disease, hate, war, immorality, and poverty. Love conquers all!
This is the greatest weapon we have in this spiritual war against evil! So essential is this love, that on the night Jesus would be betrayed and arrested (before he left for the Kidron Valley), Jesus prayed for us. He prayed that those who believe in Him would be one, united in love. By this, the world would know that God has sent His only Son into the world. Through our love, the world would know that God loves the world (see John 17:20-26).
And a message that we don’t often hear in our churches these days is about the love of God. God loves us more than we know or could grasp. He knows the worst about us, but chooses to love us. He knew our darkest sins and it didn’t stop Him from sending Christ. It didn’t stop Jesus from going to the cross to die for you and me.
No matter what you’ve been through in life; no matter what choices you’ve made, God knows all about it and He still loves you. He even knows the best about us – more than we or any other even see in us. He knows things that are in us that we’ve never experienced yet. And He has a call on our lives that we can’t even conceive the scope of. For He knows all the amazing things He has planned for us. Listen to what God says through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:11): For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Most importantly, God knows our ultimate destiny: to become like Jesus and dwell with Him as one big family. This has always been His plan for us.
So, if you want to experience true love and true life, then you need to experience Christ! And Church, for the world to see Christ, we must learn how to love. As the apostle Paul stated to the church in Corinth, be imitators of Christ! (1 Corinthians 11:1). “LOVE!” This Valentine’s Day and every day, celebrate true agape love! And remember, God loves you! If you doubt that, just look at the cross. Happy Valentine’s Day!
About the writer: As a missionary, Pick and his wife Michelle (an elementary teacher in Central PA) are advocates for the native missionary movement and the persecuted church. They partner with Gospel For Asia www.gfa.org with their music ministry. They are also a “Voice” for Voice of the Martyrs www.persecution.com. Pick has been involved with several mission projects which have included work in South America, Africa, Asia, and even in North America ministering to the Lakota Sioux at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Allen, South Dakota and both the Mountan Ute and Navajo people in Towaoc, Colorado and Window Rock, AZ. Pick’s music has charted on several continents in both mainstream pop and Christian. A dynamic performer, Pick’s passion for global missions is at the center of his music and concert ministries. Playing a variety of instruments (from keyboard to guitar to lap dulcimer), he has worked with and shared the stage with many artists in many categories of music (i.e. Ragamuffin Mitch McVicker, Mark Harris of 4HIM, Davy Jones of The Monkees, Jaded Thorns, etc.). Pick is currently working on a new album with Roginski. You can listen for free and download songs by Pick on his bandcamp page: http://www.chrispick.