Yesterday was Valentine’s Day in recognition of a humble Christian, Valentinus, who remained dedicated to his biblical ideals. Not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned by Roman Emperor Claudius II. According to tradition, the jailer had Valentinus tutor his daughter. Julia, who had been blind from birth. In addition to teaching her about Roman history, God’s creation and arithmetic, he also told her of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice for her sins. She knelt with him in his prison cell and prayed. In addition to being born anew, suddenly she could also see. 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.” His death sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D. On each February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day, messages and gifts of affection, love and devotion are exchanged around the world.
As I was thinking about what “love” means, I was wondering how an atheist or evolutionist explains the existence of love. Where did it come from? How did it start? What really is “love”? The Greeks had six words to describe various types of love: 1) Agape…unconditional love, no strings attached, an “in-spite-of” kind of love; 2) Eros… sexual passion, and “if” kind of love [“If you fulfill my desires, I will love you”]; 3) Philea… friendship, brotherly love; 4) Storge…love of parents for their children and children for their parents; 5) Philautia…self love; 6) Xenia…Love of strangers and guests, hospitality.
We use the word “love” to express our affection not only for people but also for activities and objects. But what really is love and how did it originate? Where do we get the capacity to love? If man evolved from inorganic matter, where did love come from? I would guess that atheists and evolutionists have difficulty explaining its existence.
We didn’t evolve from non-living matter by a process of time and chance over eons of time. We were made on day six of God’s creation week, and made in the image of God. “Then God said, ‘Let Us (a reference to the Triune God) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’…And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:26,27). We are not given an explanation for what it means to be made in the image of God, but by studying what God is like, we get an idea of what man is like. God is able to govern, to make decisions, to express emotions, to think. And God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit who have an intimate relationship with one another yet exist as one God. Man is made of body (through which we have world consciousness through our five senses) and soul (through which we have self consciousness; also the source of emotions and desires), and spirit (through which we have God-consciousness and can communicate with and respond to Him). We read in I Thes. 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We also know that “God is love” (I Jn. 4: 8). Love is His supreme quality. For all eternity, there has been perfect love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word used in Scripture to describe and define this love is the Greek word agape, which refers to unconditional, no-strings-attached love. It is not “I will love you if,” or “I will love you because of who you are or what you have or what you have done,” but “I will love you because of who I Am.” So, just what is love? Someone said “defining love is like painting a picture, not of Jell-O, but with it!” But the Bible clearly describes and defines love. Probably the most familiar verse in all of the Bible says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). In His first epistle, John wrote: “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 gave His Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10).
From these and other verses about God’s love (like I Cor.13:4-7) we see that agape love is “A spontaneous act of sacrifice to meet a need, expecting nothing in return,”Love isn’t a feeling you have (although it involves feelings); it as a voluntary, sacrificial action of your will in giving to meet a need. God didn’t wait for us to “get our act together” before He loved us. Paul writes: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:6-8).
If that isn’t exciting and amazing enough, we, as Christians, now have that same love (that sent Jesus to die for us) dwelling within us. “…because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:5). The moment we trust Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and “the fruit of the Spirit is love….” (Gal. 5:22). The thing that should characterize a Christian’s life, just as it is the supreme quality of God, is love—love for God and love for others. Just before going to the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34,35). In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul said that no matter how gifted we are, if we don’t show love, we “are nothing” and all our activity “profits nothing” (I Cor. 13:1-3).
My prayer for you, as Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers is: “that God would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19).