Thursday, February 16, 2006

Real Love

“Beloved, let us love one another: for the love of is God; and every one loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love.”
(1 John 4: 7-8).

On yesterday, a tradition called ‘Valentine’s Day’ was celebrated by Americans, in the United States and abroad. Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday?

St. Valentine?
The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third
century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Source: The History Channel

Real Love
In comparison, ‘real love’ is that quality love that emulates from God Almighty.
God is Love! (1 John 4:8b). The word ‘love,’ in its singular form, is referenced in The
Holy Bible 304 times. Multiple other variations of the word ‘love’ include:

Love’s (once)
Loves (3 times)
Loveth (62 times)
Lovest (11 times)
Loving (3 times)
Lovingkindnesses (4 times)
Lovingkindness (26 times)
Lover (4 times)
Loved (97 times)
Lovedst (twice)
Lovely (4 times)

In total, our Heavenly Father reminds us 521 different ways that love is expressed throughout The Holy Bible, is an extension of who He is, and is His will for our lives.
Through spiritual growth, we all display an outward manifestation of the fruit (which literally means “growth”) of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23, the nine characteristics of fruit – FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT - are identified as follows:

Love (unconditional love),
Joy (delight; elation; gladness),
Peace (internal serenity),
Longsuffering (patience),
Gentleness (caring),
Goodness (kindheartedness),
Faith (faithfulness),
Meekness (power under control - the opposite of weakness), and
Temperance (self-control).

Then, love – deriving from the Hebrew word agap‘ - can be defined as:
Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethen, or toward men generally, is not an
impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it
spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the
welfare of all and works no ill to any. Love seeks opportunity to do good to all men, and
“especially toward them that are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Real love is an expression of love toward all. Yes, celebrating a special day to romance our spouses is a good thing, but be mindful that everyday offers unlimited opportunities to spread the love of God abroad. Participate in God’s plan for our lives and share His real love to those within your sphere of influence. You, and they, will be glad that you did!