First Some History
During the severe persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire in the third century AD, a church leader named Valentinus was secretly marrying Christian couples. He did this in spite of the edict from Emperor Claudius II forbidding young men to marry since he wanted them to be soldiers with no ties to home and family. Valentinus was arrested, and when he would not renounce his faith was condemned to be beaten with clubs and beheaded.
While in jail, Valentinus became friends with the jailer’s blind daughter with whom he had long conversations. The day before his execution he wrote her a loving farewell note signing it, “From your Valentine.” He was executed on February 14, 270 AD. Two-hundred and twenty-six years later, Pope Gelasius designated this date to honor his martyrdom, the patron saint of love and marriage.
A Day for Lovers
Valentine’s day, and hundreds of thousands of Valentine’s cards were exchanged by husbands and wives, and by boyfriends and girlfriends all across the western world. Last Sunday, thousands of preachers seized the opportunity to speak of God’s love, very likely using 1 Corinthians 13 as their text.
And rightly so. God, after all, is love. He is the living embodiment of every line of that great Love Chapter. I remember memorizing it in the Shakespearian language of the King James Authorised Version. “Charity suffereth long and is kind. Charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself.”
But what matters is not if we memorize it, or in what version we read it, but, rather, how we implement the truth of these lovely words with the people who we encounter every day.
Each act of love is a choice. A life of love is made up of thousands of moment to moment choices. Choosing to love our spouse, partner, child, friend, or even our enemy means more than mouthing those three words: “I love you.” When we say “I love you” to someone, God wants us to mean this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Paraphrased
You may at times exasperate me, but because I love you, I will choose to be patient with you.
You may at times treat me badly, but because I love you, I will be kind to you.
You may be much superior to me in many ways, but because I love you, I will not envy you.
I may be superior to you in some ways, but because I love you, I will not brag about myself to you, nor be proud of who I am or of what I have done.
You may at times be rude to me, but because I love you, I will not be rude to you.
You may at times be headstrong and opinionated, but because I love you, I will never manipulate you to get my own way.
You may at times do or say things I don’t like, but because I love you, I will not respond in anger.
You may at times do things to hurt me or wrong me in some way, but because I love you, I will forgive you and not keep track of them.
You may at times make life hard for me, but because I love you, I will always persevere in doing what is right and deepening our relationship.
Because I love you, I will always support you, always trust you, and always expect the best of you, giving you the benefit of any doubt.
You might let me down, but because I love you, I will never fail you.
Love in Action
This is exactly how God loves us. Obviously, this standard goes far beyond human love. This is the way God wants to love others through us: through our hands, our feet, our voices, our writings, our help.
This is also the way He loves hundreds of billions of people who do not yet know Him. Just think, 1,620 people groups have yet to receive God’s Valentine’s card, the Bible, in their language.