Love is Self-sacrificing

Love is Self-sacrificing

Today is Valentine’s Day. For most people, it is a celebration of romance, punctuated by sending cards, flowers, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and a nice dinner with your beloved. They don’t realize that Valentine was a priest who lived in Rome in the 3rd century and was actually martyred on February 14th for his Christian faith.

Valentine lived during the reign of the Emperor Claudius II. Rome at this point in time was a cesspool of immoral behavior; pedophilia was rampant; sexual promiscuity was common and celebrated. In that lustful society, Valentine was one of the Christian witnesses, who preached the Gospel and taught God’s Word on the value of a marriage, where sexuality is channeled into its God-given boundaries, and that marriage should be a picture of what real enduring love looks like.

During his reign, Claudius issued an edict (an executive order) that made it illegal to get married or perform a marriage. There was an invasion of Goths coming towards Rome and Claudius needed a lot of men to go to war. The law exempted men from going to war if they were married. Instead of asking the Senate to change the law to include drafting married men into service, Claudius took the politically easy step of forbidding any new marriages through executive order.

Valentine believed Claudius’ edict was not only unlawful, but more importantly, against God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 7:36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin.

Therefore, Valentine not only preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but secretly performed marriages. Consequently, Valentine was arrested. While he was being held captive, he presented the Gospel to his jailer.

The jailer said to him, “Well, if this Gospel is indeed true, I want you to prove it.” So the jailer brought his blind daughter to the jail. Valentine laid his hands upon the girl and prayed. She was healed immediately. The jailer therefore believed and was baptized. However, emperor Claudius was not influenced and sentenced Valentine to death.

Before he was executed on February 14, 269, Valentine left a note for the jailer’s daughter, and signed it "Your Valentine." Some say this led to the practice of sending "valentines" on February 14th, the day he was beheaded.

So, Valentine's Day didn't start out as a romantic holiday. It was intended to be a day to commemorate Valentine and what he did. Like most Christian holidays, Valentine's Day has been corrupted by those seeking to make money from the holiday. It has been perverted and paganized by symbolizing it with the erotic god, called Cupid.

Valentine’s Day represents more than flowers and candy. It is about love for God, commitment to His Word, sacrificing self-will, and our giving our life, like Christ demonstrated on the cross.

God is love. The source of all self-sacrifice and love for each other is rooted in God's love. Love is not about shacking up or having sex. Love is about commitment, self-sacrifice, and marriage.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Notice, marriage is between one man and one woman. However, for Christians, marriage is much more than just a union between and man and a woman. It is a holy parable of the relationship and love between Christ and His Church.

Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Marriage is a visible sermon about holiness and purity within an intimate relationship. A Christian wedding should be a day that we celebrate the commitment and union of two people, one man and one woman, becoming one in spirit, soul, and body. Their lives together should testify of the relationship between Christ and the Church for whom He gave His life. Therefore, a Christian marriage should demonstrate to a broken world what true sacrificial love looks like—two people laying down their lives for one another.

Jesus said in John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Out of love, Christ laid down His life for us. His death shows us three things about love.

1. Christ’s death shows the sacrificial duty of love.

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”

At Gethsemane, Jesus gave up His own will and did not attempt to avoid the cross. So many have failed in their hour of greatest testing, but not Christ. Because He loves the Father and because He loves us, Christ did not reject the cross, rather He embraced it and sacrificed Himself for our benefit.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast; it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Does this describe your love? If not, then it is not true love, which is self-sacrificing. Instead, it is self-love.

2. Christ’s death shows us the determination of love:

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus’ purpose was nothing less than to die for sinners. He had nothing to gain but our salvation. Joy is the result of obeying God. Therefore, Jesus focused on the things He loved, His future Bride and doing the will of the Father. That love motivated Him press on with determination.

3. Christ’s death shows the depth of love.

Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

How far will a person go for love? Most people have a limit to their love. Jesus doesn’t. We quit on Him and disobey Him because we don’t love Him as much as we love ourselves. Therefore, we separate ourselves from Him. Jesus doesn’t quit loving us no matter how we treat Him. That’s the depth of His love.

Christ’s sacrificial blood on the cross proves His love for us. While we were His enemy, Christ died for us. Someone said, you can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. Out of love, Jesus sacrificed His life and gave us eternal life.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It cost Christ His life to give us eternal life. That is the ultimate self-sacrifice of love. Thus salvation is free but not cheap.

Furthermore, Christ’s blood sacrifice allows us to come into the Father’s presence and experience His love. We have the privilege to call God our Father. We can go before Him like a child and have an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, thanks to the self-sacrificing love of Christ.

As God’s children, we also experience His discipline. Because He loves us, God disciplines us for our good.

Hebrews 12:6-11 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

It is comforting to know we are legitimate children, born by God’s will and by His Spirit into His Kingdom. Therefore, as we learn obedience to His commands, we develop an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in John 15:14-15 You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

In the Old Covenant, very few could be called God’s friends. Sin stood between God and His people. But in the New Covenant, Christ through His sacrifice opened the door to a fuller friendship. We can know Him personally, we can speak with Him, and we can have fellowship with Him. We can also ask for things in His Name.

There are many partnerships in life such as political, business, and marital. Unfortunately, some of these partnerships end badly. But there is one partnership that will never disappoint. When we accept Christ, we become one with Him. He is in us and we are in Him. He will not leave us nor forsake us.

On this Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that God has written a thousand-page love letter to you, inviting you to become His (His valentine, if you like). More than that, He is asking you to marry His Son, Jesus Christ, and become the Bride of Christ. If you will say “Yes”, and give Jesus your life, you will never be the same again. If you accept Jesus as your love, your Savior, and your Lord, you will have His Name. He will be in you and you in Him by His Holy Spirit. You will be gradually transformed into His likeness and character. While that is happening, Jesus is preparing a place for you in the Kingdom of Heaven. At an hour we don’t know, He will come and get His Bride. Are you ready for that wedding day?

If not, you can get ready if you have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross. Begin getting ready by publicly professing your faith. Repent of your sin and give your life to Jesus by dying to yourself in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will clean you up and prepare you to meet the Bridegroom.