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February 2013 - Valentines and Love

Valentines and Love

            Valentines. Where did the tradition of giving notes of love and affection every February 14th come from?  Valentine was a physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius, and become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. The commemoration of his death, which occurred in the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early church of the West. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper. This greeting, the first valentine, became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring we are familiar with today. 

Our Lord knows a little something about love. Our Loving Creator writes in the first Epistle of St. John, chapter four:

(1 John 4:7-11 NIV)  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. {8} Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. {9} 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. {10} This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. {11} Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

            God is love.  And He showed forth that loving character by sending His Son to live and die for those who did not love Him, in fact who despised and rejected Him – us.  He did not love us because we loved Him first, indeed, we cannot by fallen nature ever love Him on our own.  No, He loved us first because He alone IS love.  A sacrificial Love.  And since He lovingly sent His Son to us, He has graciously made us truly alive in Him – that is, those who once again by grace through faith are connected to Him and His love.  Those who can reflect God’s love and image to those around us.

            Pastor Luther has these thoughts on love:  “Love is the inevitable fruit of faith.  This is what Christ meant when He finally gave no commandment except that of love (John 15:12), by which men were to recognize those who are His disciples and true believers.  For where works and love do not appear, faith is not genuine, the Gospel has not taken hold, and Christ is not recognized aright.”  

            The Christian cannot but love.   Yes, we have a selfish, evil, sinful nature that clings to us still, breathing hatred and self-centeredness into us and through us.  But it is at war with that new and loving nature of Christ that we have been born again and anew in through the gracious waters of our baptism.   We have the Love of God in Christ flowing into us, causing us to respond with fruits, acts of love and godliness to those around us.  (And if you have had a slight memory lapse as to what constitutes acts of love, break out that small catechism and study the section on the 10 Commandments.  Especially focus on the positive side of those Commandments – those things that we ARE TO DO for our Lord and our neighbor).  These loving acts are of God, and bear witness to His love and the faith and life which He has re-created within us.  These loving acts did not MAKE us alive, rather they are the evidence of that life, indeed, the natural result of that life that is ours through faith.

            To this thought Luther adds these words: “Now although faith does not fulfill the Law, yet it has that by which it is fulfilled; for it obtains the Spirit and love.  By these the Law is fulfilled.  On the other hand, although love does not justify us, yet it manifests that by which we are justified, namely, faith.  In short, as Paul himself here puts it: ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law,’ as though he would say: The fulfilling of the law is one thing, and to make or supply its fulfilling is another.  Love fulfills the Law by being that fulfillment itself, but faith fulfills the Law by supplying that with which it is fulfilled; for faith loves and works, as it is said in Galatians 5:6 ‘Faith worketh by love.’

            My family in Christ, as the 14th of February draws ever closer, may the God Who is Love, make you ever mindful of The Valentine of all valentines, His dear Son, nailed to a cross for you, buried in a tomb for you, and raised from the dead for you.  And mindful of that Love which made you alive by His work of grace, that you would be so moved to love in kind not only your Lord, but those who are around you, that they too might see the Love of God for them lived out before them.  That they might know you are Jesus’ disciples by your love for them.

Pastor Reiser

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