‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee …” (by Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Remember that one? There are countless ways we can say, “I love you” to the people who are special to us. In February each year, we give our sweethearts and other loved ones flowers, candy, valentines, etc., to express our affection for them.
The tradition of giving and receiving valentines did not originate until the 19th century. Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who was martyred and Feb. 14 is a feast day celebrated by some in his honor. Nevertheless, for most of us it is a day to present special gifts and valentines to that precious someone in our life, and often to receive the same in return.
Did you know that the God of Heaven sent us a special valentine written in red and paid for by the blood of His dear Son? The “World’s Greatest Valentine” was purchased by Jesus and its message can be found in the Holy Bible in John 3:16.
In February 1983, I was in my senior year of Bible college in Oklahoma City when I decided to send a friendly valentine to a young lady with whom I had been associated in ministry work for several years in Batesville. Since we had never dated or demonstrated any romantic interest in each other, I chose a beautiful card with a simple greeting for a friend.
However, six months down the road, a whirlwind of events had transpired and, by August, she and I were engaged to be married. When Valentine’s Day rolled around in 1984, I had finished Bible college and had moved to Okmulgee, Okla., where I served in a local church as associate under Pastor Bill Whitfield (a native of Mountain View). Just before Valentine’s day, I went shopping for the perfect card for my fiancee. Then I drove five hours to Batesville to deliver it in person.
After I took Melissia home at the end of our evening out, something prompted her to look for my valentine from the year before. To her amazement (and later to my complete surprise), the two cards were identical except for the salutation and verse, which then, of course, were definitely romantic. Now, 37 years later, my wife contends that second valentine is still “the greatest valentine” ever – from me.
While most of us probably have a story of “the greatest valentine” ever received from someone we love, all those valentines pale in comparison to the “World’s Greatest Valentine” with the wording, “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.”
There is no greater love than the love God has for us – fallen, sinful creatures in need of a Savior, a loving Savior Who is only a a prayer away. His valentine is no doubt the greatest valentine we could ever receive from anyone. Now let’s open up this valentine message and look at it closely.
First, we see a loving Creator, “For God so loved.” The Creator of the heavens and the earth loves us. Wow! He made us in His image and put an empty spot in our heart that only He can fill. The second thing we see is the object of His great love, “the world” – the whole world – a lost, sin-cursed, blind and dying world of sinners in need of His love (Romans 5:8).
Next, we see a liberal sacrifice, “that He gave His only Begotten Son.” He gave us the very best He had, His precious Son. His Gift was not only liberal, but it was liberating as well. Jesus said in John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” We can be free from sin and the penalty of that sin.
Finally, we find this valentine is a message with lasting results, “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” At the passing of a loved one or as we near the end of our life, there is no message as precious as the promise of everlasting life. It is ours for the claiming by turning from our self and sin to Jesus and accepting His invitation to us, “Give me thine heart (Proverbs 23:26).”
Randy Zinn is pastor of Russell Missionary Baptist Church in Russell.