“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” -1 John 4:16

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love and romance and, of course, sell lots of cards, flowers, and candy. My wife and I were engaged on the day before Valentine’s sixteen years ago. So, yes, it holds a special memory for us. The key word associated with this day is “love,” expressed to the “loved one” in myriads of ways such as cards, flowers, candy, dinner, kisses, hugs, and the words, “Will you be my valentine?” or “I love you!” All fall short of their goal if love is not genuinely exercised.

What exactly is love? I think dictionary definitions fall short in really capturing love’s true essence. Read a few; most of them use a lot of words about certain feelings toward another one or thing. What then really is love? Everyone seems to know or at least claim to know what it is but cannot define it simply in one or two words. Try it yourself; I’ll bet you can’t.

The Bible can, though. In fact, it uses one word to define love. 1 John 4 says, “God is love.” What does it mean? Essentially, it means you cannot know or understand love apart from knowing and understanding God.

So, are we saying non-believers cannot love? Apparently, the Bible says this. If the true definition of love is God, you cannot genuinely define love – at least genuine, authentic love – separate from Him. He is the essence of love. The experience and understanding of love is inextricably connected to God: who He is, what He does, and what He has done.

If what you think is love remains in your heart and mind unconnected to God, it is really not love. It is pseudo-love, false love, and far less than the true meaning of love. You may think it love, you may define it as love, but you will never be satisfied by it. In its true expression, love always satisfies. If disconnected from God and from the full appreciation that He showed love in sending His Son to die for you, what you call love will always fail to live up to true love.

We are told that “love never fails,” and this is true. However, if unconnected to God, what you call love always fails. God is love! Such love simply does not fail. It always satisfies; it is eternal.

You may say, “I know what love is, and I know how to love! So, get off my case!” But if what you call love is devoid of God, it will fail, it will never satisfy, it will not persevere, and it will not remain. If it doesn’t do these things, it fails to be love; it is nothing but a poor, miserable substitute.

The Bible speaks truth: God is love. Apart from Him, you will neither know love nor express it. Read about the nature of love in 1 Corinthians 13. You will not know such love nor exercise it without knowing and clinging to God.

So, when you say the words, “I love you,” and think you really mean it, ask yourself if God, through your knowledge and love of Him, is in those words, providing their essence and meaning, and backing what you say. If He isn’t, then your words are a lie. You don’t really love; you only think you do, and that is not much good.

If you want love to satisfy you and your hearer, if you want the words, because they are true, to accomplish their purpose, then speak them in the knowledge and assurance that God, your Lord and Savior, has enabled you to say them. “I love you!”

“My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me, love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be. O who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?”

(First verse of Samuel Crossman’s hymn, “My Song Is Love Unknown,” 1624-1683)

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