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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

St Valentin

First point - the spelling is correct! "Valentine" (with an 'e') is the feminine form of the name!

However, it was earlier, on Facebook, that a friend had posted a picture - a likeness (one presumes) of Valentin with, above it, the familiar words: "Roses are red; violets are blue;" Then underneath were the words: "I was beaten with clubs; beheaded; buried under cover of darkness; and disinterred by my followers. And you commemorate my martyrdom by sending each other chocolates!" (slightly amended!).

It's an interesting point, is it not?! Those familiar words at the top usually continue: "sugar is sweet; and so are you!". They are intended to be an expression of love - but it's a love that is more "Mills & Boon" than anything else! Valentin, however, had discovered a deeper love that led to his martyrdom. It's the love of which the Paul writes to the disciples of Jesus in Corinth - a city that was known, contemporaneously, as the centre of immorality. The late Prof. William Barclay writes: "She had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a byword for evil living. The very word korinthiazesthai - to live like a Corinthian - had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery. ... Aelien, the late Greek writer, tells us that if ever a Corinthian was shown on the stage in a Greek play, he was shown drunk. The very name Corinth was synonymous with debauchery and there was one source of evil that was known all over the civilised world. Above the isthmus towered the hill of the Acropolis and, on it, stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. To that temple there were attached one thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes and, in the evenings, they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth until it became a Greek proverb, 'It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.' In addition to these cruder sins, there flourished far more recondite vices, which had come in with the traders and sailors from the ends of the earth until Corinth became not only a synonym for wealth and luxury, drunkenness and debauchery, but also for filth."

It was to people living in that kind of environment that Paul wrote: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (I Cor.13).

This is the love that is based on the love of the God Who is love (I John 4:8,16). This is the love that is so great, that as we shall shortly be remembering in a special way, it paid the penalty for your sin, and for mine, on a cross outside Jerusalem. 

Sadly, much of what modern society terms love is little (if any!) more than lust. Real love is commitment! It was his commitment to the Lord Jesus that led Valentin to his death. It is that same commitment to that same Jesus that enables so many, even today, to die rather than deny Him. I don't need to remind you of those Coptic Christians who were so callously murdered and beheaded on a Libyan beach, by thugs who were serving the moon-god cult of Islam; of those who were burned alive in cages, for the same reason; of women and girls gang-raped to satisfy the lust of the Muslim men who had captured them.

So, as we come to the end of Valentin's Day 2018, please consider the kind of love that you show to others - and remember the love that Father God shows to you, and to which you may respond while you have time. As always, if I can be of any further help at a personal level, please contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the page. I don't check that Inbox every day - but I shall get back to you as quickly as possible.

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