How to feel loving this week

Ah, love.

You probably already know that Valentine’s Day comes later this week. Interesting that it falls on a Sunday this year.

If you’ve been to a store lately you’ve seen the displays – chocolate candies in heart-shaped boxes. Cute little Valentines cards that elementary school children fill out and give to friends. Those little sugar hard candies with brief messages imprinted on them.

And of course the ads for jewelry – guys, just drop a significant chunk of change and somehow you’ll be the hero forever. Or at least till next week. Ah, the sales pitch.

Romantic dinners would normally be the big item but not this year of course. Yes, restaurants are still open but wearing a safety mask and wondering about anyone seated near you puts a bit of a damper on the ambience. Still, there’s always takeout. Just light some candles at home.

Love songs? Only about a million of them. From classical pieces to “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” to ditties about spurned love – romantic tunes have launched a thousand musical careers.

Love, soft as an easy chair
Love, fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you

-          Evergreen, sung by Barbara Streisand from the movie A Star is Born, 1971 Oscar winner

So where did this whole idea come from? The upcoming February 14 is SAINT Valentine’s Day, a Christian martyr ultimately done in but the Roman Emperor Claudius II around the year 270 AD. Valentine was a Christian bishop working in a very tough time. Some believe he was beheaded on February 14.

Or at least we THINK so. History says there have been a number of Valentines over the centuries, including one woman and one Pope.

And like others he’s a patron saint – of lovers but also of beekeepers, travelers, those with epilepsy, those who faint and those with the plague. In that last case Valentine is the perfect saint for this insane year we’re dealing with.

But this tradition of Valentine’s Day and lovers may actually be tied to the famous medieval English author Geoffrey Chaucer, of Canterbury Tales fame. He wrote a poem about Valentine around 1375 linking him with finding a mate, and only after that poem did this idea of romance and February 14 get started. Heart shaped boxes came much later.

Ah, love. But in Greek that word “love” covers a lot of ground. The Bible in Greek writings covers four different kinds of love…

-          Eros or romantic love. Break out your wallet for all that red colored heart stuff.

-          Storge or family love, those feelings we all have for our relatives. Hopefully.

-          Philia or brotherly love, close feelings we have for friends or large Pennsylvania cities.

And then there’s agape love, that unconditional unexplainable love that forever comes from God.

Unconditional means always, no matter what we’ve done or haven’t done. And unexplainable means how can God continue to love and forgive people who continually seem to spurn him?

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me…

The Bible of course is filled with verses about the love of God for us and His creation. One of the most famous verses of them all…

“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

And the equally famous verse…

“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 22:37-39 NIV

But let’s go to a rather obscure book in the New Testament for a deeper look at the real meaning of love. It’s believed that 1 John, like the Gospel of John and the 2nd and 3rd Books of John, were all written by the Apostle John, sometimes known as John the Evangelist. There’s still some debate on whether John also wrote the apocalyptic Book of Revelation.

But 1 John is a pep talk of sorts for Christians who were struggling in their faith at the beginning. And the issue of love figures strongly in the fourth chapter…

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” – 1 John 4:7-21 NIV

As you read over that passage it encompasses our entire faith. Everything we believe emanates from the simple act of love for others.

Go ahead, read it again, a little slower this time. It’s a message for the ages and one that calls out to us right now in these tumultuous times.

No, it’s not easy – Christianity has never been an easy faith. It challenges us, pushes us to the edge sometimes as another person taunts us, ridicules us or cheats us. Love THAT person, or group of people? Yes, even that person.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… We love because he first loved us. 

We acknowledge that everything we are and everything we have comes from God. He loved us first, therefore we can then go out and love others. And if we can just get that movement going, perhaps this crazy world can yet be redeemed.

No, that’s not as sexy as yummy chocolates or a bottle of wine or a romantic dinner or a diamond ring on Valentine’s Day. But THIS love goes a lot farther and reaches far more people. It’s our connection to the Almighty that is always there, if we take the time to look.

And it all begins with - Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

No need to wait till Valentine’s Day for that…

From George Churchgoer