Summary: Valentine's Day: This message examines the real story behind Valentine’s Day, and discusses the true nature of the love that’s supposed to be remembered and practiced on this holiday.

As you well know, Valentine’s Day will be here in just a few days. In America, Valentine’s is a day of love. It’s a day for remembering our vows of love made for each other, and it’s a day for those who are desperately trying to win the affection of another male or female by enticing them with flowers and fattening gifts. We recognize it as a day of love, but what is love?

In the New Testament, godly love is called agape in the Greek, which is unconditional love. The type of love that comes with strings attached is eros, which is the word for physical desire. The love expressed among family members is storge; and the word for friendship between kindred spirits is philia, which we also understand as brotherly love. So, what type of love do most people usually have in mind on Valentine’s Day? Well, they’re probably thinking about eros, which is the physical kind of love.

Now, one figure who’s usually associated with Valentine’s Day is Cupid. “Cupid has always played a role in celebrations of love . . . He is known as a mischievous, winged child, whose arrows would pierce the hearts of his victims causing them to fall deeply in love. In ancient Greece he was known as Eros the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. To the Roman’s he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus.”(1)

Based on Cupid’s Greek name, we get an idea of how the world understands love. Cupid’s name is “Eros” in Greek. And the world’s understanding of love is of the physical and conditional type; the love of self-seeking and self-gratification. However, Cupid has nothing to do with the real meaning behind Valentine’s Day. He’s just part of the secularization, or the distortion, of a Christian holiday. Remember, the word “holiday” comes from the two words “holy” and “day.”

This morning we’re going to examine the real story behind Valentine’s Day; and by doing so, we’ll discover the true nature of the love that’s supposed to be remembered and practiced on this holiday.

Love is Laying Down One’s Life (v. 16)

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Jesus shared the essence of love in John 15:13, when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Our Savior didn’t just say this in order to impress His disciples, He literally acted it out; just as verse 16 says, “He laid down His life for us.” Jesus Christ died on the cross that we might live. He did this because He considers those who believe in Him as His friends. He became the sacrifice to take our place in death, when we should be the ones to die for our sins.

Jesus sacrificed Himself for us; and the very word “sacrifice” portrays the meaning of agape love. The word “sacrifice” means “something given up or lost.”(2) When we love someone unconditionally, it means that we will sacrifice, or give up, our own welfare that another person will gain. This is the kind of love that we’re supposed to remember and practice on Valentine’s Day; and not just on Valentine’s Day, but each and every day of the year. This is the same kind of love that Saint Valentine practiced.

According to church tradition Saint Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At that time the Roman Emperor was imprisoning Christians for not worshipping the Roman gods. During this persecution, Valentine was arrested. Some say that he was arrested because he was performing Christian marriages, but others say it was for helping Christians escape from prison.

During the trial, they asked Valentine what he thought of the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury. Of course, Valentine said they were false gods and that the God that Jesus called Father was the only true God. So, the Romans threw him in prison for insulting the gods.

While in prison, Valentine continued to minister [and] he witnessed to the guards. One of the guards was a good man who had adopted a blind girl. He asked Valentine if his God could help his daughter. So, Valentine prayed and the girl was given her sight.

The guard and his entire family, forty-six people, believed in Jesus and were baptized. Because these people had come to know Jesus, Valentine praised God right there in his prison cell. When the emperor heard about this he was furious that Valentine was still making converts even in prison; and so he had Valentine beheaded.(3)

The second part of 1 John 3:16 says, “And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

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