How Do You Define Love?

We celebrate “Valentine’s Day” on Feb. 14 each year because it was on that date that a Christian by the name of Valentinus was put to death by the Roman Emperor Claudius II in 270 A.D.  Valentinus was dedicated to his Christian beliefs and not even the threat of death caused him to recant his faith in Christ.  His blind daughter, Julia, was allowed to visit him in jail, where he tutored her .  He described the world of nature to her, taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world  through his eyes, trusted in his wisdom and found comfort in his quiet strength. One day as they prayed together in his cell, Julia miraculously regained her sight. On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God and he signed it “From your Valentine.”
     It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love, and friendship.  On each February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love and devotion are exchanged around the world. One town in the U.S., Loveland, Colorado, is called “the love-letter capital of the world where some 300,000 valentine cards and letters are received annually to be postmarked and love stamped by a group of volunteer senior citizens.
     Throughout history, man has expressed his thoughts on this thing called “love,” sometimes perceiving it as something wonderful, beautiful, and intense and other times, expressing the sorrow and anger caused by love scorned. Whatever the case, no one can deny that love is a powerful energy and emotion. But just what is love? How do you define it. Someone said, “Defining love is like painting a picture—not of Jell-O, but with it!”  Is love some strong inner emotion or feeling? Just what is love?
     Well, the best One to define love, of course, is the One who is the source of love, and in fact who  “Is love.”  We read in I John 4:7,8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
     Since love is from God and God is love, the Scriptures obviously have a lot to say about love and when we put together some key passages about love, we get a good definition of the love which has its source in God. 
     1.  First of all, love acts voluntarily. Love is a decision to act, not based on feeling, but on commitment, by an act of the will. It is not something that is coerced or earned or paid for. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative…” (Jn. 10:11,17,18).  The Apostle Paul wrote: “But while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly….But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:6,8). 
     2. Second, love gives sacrificially. Amy Carmichael said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (Jn. 3:16).  “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10).  God’s love for us was shown by His giving Himself as a sacrifice for us.  Love is never afraid of giving too much.
   3.  Third, love meets the needs of others.  We were dead in our sins and under the condemnation of God, but God, because of His great love for us, provided a means of forgiveness through the death of His Son in our place. By our natural birth we are under the penalty of sin which is death (Ro. 3:23; 6:23). Our need was great, so the sacrifice God made was great—God the Son took on human form so He could bear the penalty of sin (Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 2:9,14,15).  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained” (C.S. Lewis).  
     So, we see that the love which has its source in God (agape , unconditional love) is that which acts voluntarily and gives sacrificially to meet needs. The greater the need, the greater the sacrifice.  This type of love should characterize believers, for God’s love dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples. If you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I Jn. 4:11).  Love is the circulatory system of the Body of Christ. Our love for Christ is only as real as our love for our neighbor (Mt. 22:36-40).
     Have you experienced the Love of God manifest in His Son, Jesus Christ?  Are you sharing that love with others—not just on Valentines Day but as your daily way of life?
                In the Grip of His Love,
                    Pastor Dave
    
    
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About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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