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The confusing origin of Valentine's Day ...

Long ago there was a miracle working monk in the city of Rome, or was it Terni, Italy? Whichever ... this monk aided those in prison and built a cathedral and restored sight to the jailer's daughter, which got him released from jail. But unfortunately the monk was martyred. He was thrown into prison by the prefect. His name was Valentine.

He conducted a mass wedding for all the young men and women because birds are married on February 14. Or at least that's what they thought. But one young man loved a girl who didn't love him back, so the miracle working monk named Valentine conjured up a box of chocolates. (Chocolate comes from the Greek word for love, or maybe someone just said that.) ... Anyway, Valentine said, "Yea Verily" (because people in those days said that a lot) He said, "Yea Verily, you mayest eat of these assorted chocolates everyone of you, but of the chocolate that is filled with stuff tasting like Styrofoam thou mayest not eat for lo, it is an abomination."

Try and find a decent description for the origin of Valentine's Day and all you will find is confusion ...

This is a good description of Valentine's Day because we remain as confused, troubled, and comforted by love as anyone. There is a lot of good associated with Valentine's Day ...

There's also a lot associated with Valentine's Day that isn't so good ...

I don't mean to ruin Valentine's Day. Enjoy it. Have fun. Really, Valentine's Day is no different than any other day. Any day of the calendar we can demonstrate our confusion about love. It shouldn't surprise us that we make a mess out of love. That's to be expected. The problem is when we substitute our best ideas for love with God's love. That's a problem because we may accept the "Love-God" for the God who is Love.

Acts 17 - The apostle looked around Athens and he saw many gods on display. We are more subtle about the display of our gods nevertheless they are around. We worship Vesta the goddess of the home without shame. We worship Venus and Eros the gods of marital love and sexuality. We worship whatever gods of the state come to us dressed in red white and blue and call upon our allegiance and love of country. God, country, and family -- Do we understand that GOD will not go up on the shelf easily with our other loves? Or do we stew them together and make a sort of heavenly hash out of our many loves? Maybe we even love church or the bible? We can love these tangible things more easily than we can an invisible god and they are good things yes? But they are not God, they only reflect his love.

C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves says that "love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be God." Or "Love begins to be a Demon the moment he begins to be a god"

God is love does not say the same thing as love is god.
For starters, the Love-God takes many shapes: Love of family. Erotic love. Love of country. Love of self. Things that are not really wrong and rarely seen as bad. But warped and imbalanced they are toxic to love of God. For we can begin to hear our loves as the voice of god.

Ironically, this happens when these loves are at their best not their worst.

The more that our earthly loves resemble God, the more likely we are to confuse them for God.

When we give our earthly loves the unconditional singular allegiance that we owe only to God then those loves can become gods and when our loves do not worship God, they become in turn demons. If you have trouble with demons, then understand it as Powers that destroy us and themselves in the process.

Our earthly loves should be no less than reflections of God's love, but they should not be anything more that reflections of God's love.

1 John 4:7-21 Here is what reflected love looks like. We love because he first loved us.

1 Corinthians 13 This is more than the wedding text. It is a prescription for a hurting, broken church. Beyond fine-tuning their worship or establishing rank or practicing the rules, they needed to love more with God's love.

[Evangelism John 13 Everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.]

End the Confusion: You and I will not figure this out in twenty minutes. We won't have it mastered by the end of Valentine's Day. But in knowing the God who is the ultimate definition and standard of love, then we may be made more like him every day as his power saves us by making us more like Christ.

What do you love today? Would you like to redeem that love by loving God with all your heart soul strength and mind?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 February 2010

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