Valentine’s Day was a holiday that didn’t receive too much emphasis in our home-schooled family. Why dabble with romantic emotions when you are not yet over puberty! For me, growing up as a cross-eyed fat boy, Valentine’s Day was always a painful reminder of what I didn’t have. During my first year of marriage, I completely forgot about the holiday. Jan didn’t speak to me for a whole day!
But my biggest objection to the event is the wrong meaning that modern man has pasted onto an otherwise incredible beautiful word. When I tell people that I serve here in a 3rd world country because God has given me a love for Filipinos, it would be incorrect to think that my commitment to serve is based on a continual emotional fondness for the people. While I do have many wonderful Filipino friends here, my ministry to them is based on something far more solid than heat-felt feelings.
When Jesus taught His followers about love, He could have used the common thought expressed in the Greek word “storgee”, which is affection for someone because of your connectedness to them, such as a family member or marriage partner. But Jesus never used its Aramaic equivalent. He could have used ‘phile-o’, which is affection for someone (or something) because of qualities he/she possess. Indeed, Jesus did use it a few times, but mostly in a negative way about those who ‘love’ to sit in the place of honor, or about the way the world loves its own (John 15:19).
To express genuine love, Jesus selected the thought expressed in a Greek word that was rarely used and existed only in verb form to describe those times when a person would sacrifice himself for the benefit of another, such as a soldier for his country or a mother for her child. Jesus took that word, ‘agape-o’ and turned it into a noun, then told people where it came from (1 John 4:7). The Bible says that only those who possess God’s Holy Spirit can faithfully show this kind of unconditional, sacrificial love that is based on an inward desire to help someone else regardless of any benefit they might bring to you (Gal. 5:22).
One word that the Bible never uses is ‘eros’, which is a passionate selfish desire for someone, usually sexual. A close synonym would be ‘lust’. No Biblical writer would have ever used ‘eros’ in the context of love because it means almost the exact opposite. Unfortunately, when ancient scribes translated Greek writings into the English language, some unspiritual men used the same word ‘love’ for both ‘agape’ and ‘eros’, an enormous error that, to this day, causes much confusion about love’s true meaning.
So, I let Valentine’s Day pass, except to use it as an opportunity to talk about God’s love. Indeed, God has given me His love to pass on to Filipino people, a task for which I feel overwhelmingly inadequate. But with your prayer support and God’s grace, maybe enough of His love can find its way through me to make a meaningful impact on those God has called me to serve.