Valentine’s Day is a day to express love to others. I love reading what children have to say about love…

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5

“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – age 7

“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” Noelle – age 7

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6

“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt.” Chris – age 7

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann – age 4

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca- age 8

“Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I have been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me.” Bobby – age 8

So cute… and many of them true. I wonder if you know the true story behind the origins of Valentine’s Day? You know, it is called Saint Valentine’s Day for a reason.

About 250 years after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there was a pastor by the name of Valentine. He lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius, who was committed to rebuilding the once great Roman army. However, he believed it was important for men to volunteer for armed service, rather than drafting men into service against their will. But, given a choice, most young men in the Roman Empire refused to serve. They’d rather stay home with their wives and children than go off into battle.

Claudius believed that only single men would volunteer for service, so he issued a royal edict that banned all further marriages. He actually outlawed weddings in the Roman Empire. Valentine thought it was ridiculous!! One of his favorite duties as a pastor was to marry people. So after Emperor Claudius passed his law, Valentine secretly continued performing marriage ceremonies.

One night, a couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught, thrown into jail and sentenced to death. Valentine tried to stay cheerful. Many of the young couples he had married came to visit him in jail. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love.

One day he received a visit from the daughter of his prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit him in his cell and they often sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing weddings. On the day Valentine was to die, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, “Love from your Valentine.” That note started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D.—a day that was set aside in honor of a man who gave his life for God and for love. Now, every year on this day, people remember Saint Valentine. But most importantly, they think about love.

Everyone loves love! We want to be loved and we want to give love. The problem is—our love is lacking just like we are. It’s often conditional upon our own mood or our loved one’s actions, appearance or attitude. When it comes to love, all of us fall a little short, don’t we?

My question for you today is—how do we find, nurture, and develop greater love on Valentine’s Day and every day? The answer, I believe, is found in the very words of Jesus in John 15:9-17.

Jesus had a lot to say about love, and his final night with his followers was no exception. During the course of the evening (which is recorded in John 13-17) Jesus used the word “love” not less than thirty times in eighteen different verses. It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to see that love meant a lot to Jesus. I believe Jesus revealed for us how to have greater love. It all begins when we receive his love for us!

We find greater love by receiving God’s love.

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” (John 15:9)

Jesus knew that the time for him to leave this world had come. He knew that the time he had left with his disciples was short. And he wanted to spend that time showing them the full extent of his love. We can find greater love by recognizing and receiving the love that God has for us through Jesus.

A preacher once said, “Everything I ever needed to know about theology, I learned from just one song: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ Do you know the origin of that song? It first appeared in the form of a poem in a children’s novel written by Anna Warner in 1859. One of the characters comforted a dying child with the words, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” A couple of years later William Bradbury stumbled across it, wrote his own tune and added a chorus. Within months the melody spread across North America like wildfire. A simple poem from an obscure novel became the most well-known hymn in the world. It’s been translated into more languages that any other song. It’s often used by missionaries as a teaching aid, because they favor its simple and easy-to-learn chorus.

Why has this simple song become so universally known and loved? Because it expresses the single most significant and profound truth known to humanity in three simple words—Jesus loves me! Years in seminary won’t teach you anything more significant than this one song sung in Sunday School classrooms all over the world.

Receiving the love of Jesus is to receive Him as your personal Lord and Savior. You can’t have greater love without the great Savior living inside you.

We nurture greater love by loving Jesus.

“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends…” (John 15:14-15)

In Jesus’ day, a rabbi’s disciples were known as his servants. But Jesus said: “You are my friends “ In your relationship with God, Jesus promotes you from servant to friend—which sort of brings up the question— What kind of friend are you?

It’s one thing to say, “Jesus loves me.” It’s a whole other thing to say, “I love Jesus.” Can you say that? Do you love Jesus? Do you love God? Is your love for him reflected in how you live your life? When we sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” do you mean it? We will never be able to love the people God puts in our lives, if we don’t start by loving God himself.

Jesus said that the first and greatest command is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Our love for God, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit—must be the driving force of our lives. If everything we do isn’t spurred by our love for God, nothing we do really matters.

So how does reciprocating God’s love show itself in practical ways? Well, I would say it’s not too different from any other love-relationship. It’s built on trust, communication, adoration, etc. In other words: faith, prayer, and worship. The thing about loving Jesus, though, is that our love for him needs to be all-consuming.

I remember when I first fell in love with my wife, I thought about her constantly: while eating breakfast, at school, at work, waiting in line at the grocery store, pumping gas—I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman! I often talked to myself about her and contemplated all the things I loved about her. Thinking about her like that helped me feel close to her even if we were miles apart. By constantly thinking about her, I was abiding in my love for her and her love for me. That’s essentially what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and abide in his love for you. It affects every aspect of your life.

We develop greater love by sharing God’s love.

“These things I command you, that ye love one another.” (John 15:17)

Repeatedly throughout this chapter, Jesus says, “This is my command: love one another”. Once we’ve received the love of Jesus in our lives and love Him back, then we’re ready to share that love with the rest of the world.

Just hours before issuing this comprehensive command, Jesus demonstrated loving otherst. It was customary for a servant to use a basin of water and a clean towel to wash the dirty feet of guests before sitting down to dinner. As the disciples reached the upper room, they probably spotted the towel and water basin easily enough, but there were apparently no servants around. So while the rest of them gathered around the table, tracking mud through the house, Jesus prepared to do something wonderful. He washed their feet.

Jesus Christ—the son of God—got on his knees and washed filthy feet. It’s almost too much to believe. But it’s even more amazing when we realize that this was an act not only of humility and service, but love!

As we seek to grow in our capacity to love—to have greater love—let’s continue to look to the heart of Jesus and love like Jesus.

Saint Valentine may have become famous for defying the Emperor and standing up for marriage, but what really made him a saint was that he received the love of Jesus, he loved Jesus back, and shared the love of Jesus with others. When you and I do that, we are no less saints than was Saint Valentine.

After my son, Joshua,  joined the Marines, and went through bootcamp and special training, he came home and announced that he got a tattoo. It’s a thing military guys do, but I wasn’t too pleased. He showed it to me. It was barbed wire around his bicep and had two dog tags on it. On one dog tag was his ID# in case he were ever killed in battle and needed to be identified. On the second dog tag were the letters and numbers: JN 15:13. I had to look it up. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I told him I loved the tattoo. May we all have that kind of love for God and for our friends.