Summary: The Bible tells us all we need to know about love.


John 3:16 (KJV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Today is February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, of course. What do you know about Saint Valentine, or, to use his Latin name, Valentinus?

It is difficult to know anything for certain. In fact, historians claim that the details of this man’s life are lost in obscurity. About the only thing they’re sure of is that Valentine was buried at the Via Flaminia, just north of Rome, on February 14. Even when Saint Valentine’s Day was established in the year 496, little was known about him. He was simply regarded as one among those "... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God."

We may not know much about Saint Valentine, but we know quite a bit about love, especially God’s love. Even a child can recite John 3:16, and while adults forget many other things they learn, we seldom forget the words to this great verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” For such a brief Bible verse as this is, there is nevertheless a lot about love in it.

For one thing, it tells us that love is God’s primary posture toward the world of humanity. The verse doesn’t say that God was so angry with the world that he sent his only Son. God may be angry about the things we do to each other -- in fact, the Scriptures tell us that he is -- but that is not his primary stance.

I have never been a boxer, but ever since I was a child, I have heard that, in the ring, you lead with your left. That is, you position yourself opposite your opponent in such a way that your left glove is out in front. Your right glove is close to your body. You’re always jabbing with the left hand. That’s “leading with your left.”

Well, you might say that God leads with his heart. When you consider God as he is revealed in the Scriptures, the first thing you realize is that “God loved.”

But what does that mean? We all know that the word love can be used in any number of different ways. I love ice cream. I love sunny days. I love my children. I love my wife. Love is a term that has broad application.

Well, John 3:16 clears all that up. When the Bible says that “God loved,” it quickly goes on to tell us how his love found expression. “For God so loved that he gave....” God’s love is sacrificial love.

You can see this throughout the pages of the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 -- which we call the Love Chapter -- love is described as costly to the lover. What does it say? Love “suffereth long, and is kind; [love] envieth not; [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

In short, “it seeketh not her own.” It is directed toward the well-being of the beloved. This is a far cry from some of the attitudes that pass for love among people. Unfortunately, as sinful human beings, we are not above using “love” to manipulate others to get what we want. At times, the words “I love you” actually mean “I love me, and I’ll use you.”

But not with God. God’s love is expressed not for his good but for ours. Because God loved, God gave. God gave up the most precious thing in the universe to him. He gave up his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why? Why make this sacrifice? Because God could not stand idly by and watch us perish. He loved us too much. According to John 3:16, that’s what was at stake. God “gave his only begotten Son” so that we “should not perish.”

“The wages of sin is death,” the Bible says. And who has not sinned? I have. And you have. The whole world has. And the death that overshadows us is not simply physical death. That’s bad enough. The real threat is spiritual death, eternal separation from God. That’s what it means to “perish,” to be separated from God forever.

2 Peter 3:9 says that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The loss of any human being -- the crown of his creation -- is not something that God will passively accept. So what does he do about it? He gives up his Son.

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