Now that Valentine’s Day has passed and I’ve had time to think honestly about it, I willing to bet that I am probably in the minority with this thought:
It is inaccurate to associate God with Valentines Day purely on the basis of love.
Excluding the obvious days of the year – i.e. Easter, Lent, Christmas, etc – God is rarely purposely associated with any other day of the year. That is not to say that God cannot be associated with other days of the year.
For example, although the namesake of St Patrick’s Day was a Christian, we don’t associate God with this day of the year. The idea of St Patty’s Day usually brings to mind a leprechaun, a pot of gold, an incessant amount of the color green, and spending the evening in an Irish Pub drinking beer. How does God fit into this tradition?
Despite its namesake also being a Christian, Valentine’s Day is not associated with God because of St Valentine’s Faith. I can only assume that God is associated with Valentine’s Day is because God is a God of love and Valentine’s Day is a day of love. If there is another idea or reason for associating the two, it is not as prominently displayed. Now, this idea about God being a God of love is spot on. He is a God of love. Even more specific, God Himself is love (1 Jn 4:8). However, I think associating God with Valentine’s Day solely on the basis of love is inaccurate, and doing so does not increase the appeal of His love as some might hope, but in actuality, it minimizes the magnitude of His love.
What is Love?
We use the word love everyday. There’s really no getting around it. We all love someone or something and through our natural desires of friendship and intimacy, we have a tendency to make our feelings of love known to others. A point we must understand regarding love, is that everything we say we love is not loved in the same way.
In one instance, when we say how much we love a friend or a spouse, it is usually because we have strong feelings for them. These feeling usually cause us to want to spend more and more time with said person. Maybe they make us feel a certain way or they do something special for us that causes our feelings to gravitate to them and our emotions to radiate for them. That is perfectly understandable.
In another instance, when we say how much we love a movie or a song, it is usually because the subject matter makes us feel a certain way. Because of this, we tend want to hear the song or watch the movie order and over. Again, perfectly understandable.
The word “love” in each example is relevant and applicable as it is used, but the meaning of the word within the context of each situation is specific to that situation. Meaning, we don’t we love a movie as much as or in the same way as we love a spouse and we don’t love a song as much as or in the same way which we love a friend.
To explain it more explicitly – the way I love my bride is not going to be the same way I love my child, and the way I love my child is not going to be the same way I love my brother. These are different levels and intensities of love which are subsequently expressed in different ways. The same occurs in the bible.
There is only one word for love; however, there are various ways in which the word “love” is used. This occurs in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It’s same word, different expressions and intensities.
Types of Love
1. Phileo *(#G5368) – The word “love” when used in this way describes a friendship or brotherly love; the kind of love shown to or received from a friend or relative. Used in this context, “love” is developed over time and in many ways, it thrives and grows based on the treatment of one person to the other. The city of Philadelphia is derived from the word “phileo”, hence the city slogan – “The City of Brotherly Love”.
2. Agape *(G26) – This word “love”in this context, describes the kind of love “that God has for His Son and His people, and the active love his people are to have for God, each other, and even enemies.” (Strongs, pg 1587) This kind of love is not grown or developed; it exists as such from its inception. There is nothing that can be done to strengthen it or diminish it. It just is.
3. Eros – The word “love”, used here, is not in the Bible, but still holds relevance to this topic. Used in this context, “love” describes a romantic kind of love. The kind of love that someone feels for a spouse or significant other. This is similar to phileo, in that it thrives and grows based on how one person treats the other; but, it’s more applicable in regard to the love a man and woman in a committed relationship or marriage show each other. This love is strictly for one other person, not a group of people. This is the word from where the word “erotic” is derived.
God’s Love Is Greater
Love is love. But as previously said, it varies in expression and intensity. The kind of love I show my brother (phileo) is not the same kind of love I show my bride (eros). The kind of love my bride shows her friends (phileo) is not the same kind of love she shows me (eros). And we do not love our spouses (eros) and friends (phileo) with the same kind of love which God loves up (agape). Conversely, we should love God with the same kind of love He shows us (agape).
So, when we place the kind of love that God shows for us in the same category as the kind of love we show for others, I believe we minimize the depth of God’s love. His love is on full display throughout all of scripture. It is shown in everything from when He created man in His own image (Gen 1:27) to when He sent His Son to die for our sins (Gal 4: 4-5) and everything in between. God did not leave us with doubts regarding the love He has for us. The kind of love He has for us is so far above our own, that the love that we have for each other is pale in comparison.
Let’s Not Lose Focus
I don’t want to take anything away from Valentine’s Day. This article isn’t meant to be an “anti” Valentine’s Day rant meant to change the mindset of those who celebrate this day. In and of itself, I think it is fine. I celebrate it with my bride and my daughters. My youngest was born on Valentine’s Day, so it holds a special significance in my family.
Additionally, I think it’s great that so many people think about God and His love on this day. Praise God for the people whose thoughts are inclined toward Him on any given day of the week, let alone on Valentine’s Day. As God’s creation, we should always have our thoughts honed in on our Creator.
But on this day, as many people are celebrating the romantic or eros kind of love they have for their spouse, and others are celebrating the brotherly or phileo kind of love they have for their family and friends, let’s not reduce the Godly or agape kind of love that God has for His children, by associating them all together as if they are equal. God’s love is a love too great to be minimized. It is a love greater than we deserve. It is a love that we cannot fully understand. It is a love that saves us from our sin, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son whom He sacrificed, because He loved us so much.
*Strong, James LL.D, S.T.D. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Zondervan: Michigan. 2001.
The Bible Study Site. http://www.biblestudy.org/question/what-are-three-types-of-love-in-new-testament.html. Accessed February 14, 2013.