Summary: A message for a Valentine’s Day celebration.
INTRO: Do you know who St. Valentine was? St. Valentine, according to tradition, was a priest who lived in Rome about AD 200. He cared. He cared about Christians who were being persecuted. He helped them to the extent that he became imprisoned by the Roman government. While in prison he cared very much for his jailer’s daughter who was blind. He prayed for her, and she received her sight. How much did he care? Did he love her? All she had to go by was a note written to her the night before his execution. It was simply signed, “From your Valentine.”
“Do you love me?” That question is often asked for assurance and comfort. Jesus addressed the question to Simon Peter three times as they were on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The use of two different words for love used by Jesus and Simon Peter (άγάπη) agape, and (φιλ) phileo, make an intriguing study. Why could Simon not bring himself to use the word agape, which expresses “unconditional love?” Why did Jesus change the word for love to phileo, the word for “brotherly love?” Endless though and meditation are motivated by this interesting story.
What did Jesus mean by “these” when He asked Simon, “Do you love me more than these?” Was He referring to the other disciples? Or was He referring to the things, such as the boat, the fish, the nets? Love is both fascinating and frustrating.
I. LOVE CANNOT BE EXPLAINED.
Webster defines love as “the feeling experienced when one is strongly attached or deeply devoted to another.” Poet, philosopher, and preacher have tried to define love, but every definition falls short.
Elizabeth Browning wrote: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” A popular Christian song is entitled “The Love of God.” The last verse of this song by F. M. Lehman seeks to express the unexplainable dimensions of the love of God, in that were the ocean filled with ink, “To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry.”
There is no rational explanation to the truth of John 3:16. A country preacher once said he was going to explain the unexplainable, describe the indescribable, and unscrew the inscrutable. But God’s love goes beyond our comprehension.
II. LOVE MUST BE EXPERIENCED.
Only by experience can we begin to understand what cannot be adequately expressed. Have you ever tried to describe the beauty of a glowing sunset to a person who has always been blind? Or the exquisiteness of an American Beauty rose? How impossible to describe or explain such things with words. Only the experience itself is adequate.
How could you explain the love of a parent for a child to one who had never experienced such a tender relationship? Or the love of a husband for his wife? Or a grandparent for a grandchild? Only the experience is adequate.
Perhaps that explains the frustration often felt by Christians as they try to explain the love of God to non-Christians. As Christians we experience God’s love through a personal relationship with Christ. Our love for God is a reaction of our experience of His love (1 John 4:9-10).