Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love.

Love is a necessary ingredient in the life of every individual. Many years ago it was discovered that tiny babies need love. Babies left in orphanages or hospitals without the warmth of a loving stroke or tender embrace did not thrive.

Ask most people what they want out of life and it all boils down to this four-letter word, to love and to be loved!

The use of this one little word has the power to lift our spirits or send us into the depths of despair. It’s a word that has an enormous impact on our lives. However, its true meaning is often misunderstood.

Though love is a basic human emotion, it is difficult to define. Perhaps that is why the Greeks use three forms of the word to describe what we commonly refer to as love.

Eros is the word for sexual attraction or lust. It is quite simply, the urge to merge. It is generally dependent on the senses. It can come on quite suddenly and leave just as suddenly. Phileo is the love one feels for a relative or close friend, often referred to as “brotherly love.”

Agapao was the verb used in classical Greek literature to describe the actions associated with what we have come to think of as “true love.” Liddell & Scott’s Intermediate Lexicon defines it this way: “To treat with affection, to caress, love, be fond of.” This verb reflects the actions associated with the urgency and passion of eros as well as the caring of phileo.

Agape, a noun, is the most powerful word imaginable for love. It was first used by the early Christians to describe the love of God in Christ, the love intended to provoke our love for Him and to motivate a lifestyle of love toward others.

There always has been some confusion between true love and the passionate affection one has for a member of the opposite sex. The latter is meaningless without the former and, if those passions are followed through to the ultimate conclusion without real love, the two people involved may feel empty, cheated and hurt.

How do you know that a person who professes to love you really loves you? The answer is simple – time. Its passions ebb and flow, but if love is true, the commitment remains constant through the best and worst of circumstances.

It is no wonder that today’s young people are more confused than ever about love. Our educational systems cater to the dysfunctional student who doesn’t know the meaning of “delayed gratification.”

When we pass out the condoms, what we are really telling our young people is “Play now; pay later.” Unfortunately, with HIV/AIDS and the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer, some will pay with their lives. If you think that sexual activity among willing young people is no big deal, you are wrong, dead wrong.

While condoms often fail to prevent pregnancy, they fail to prevent exposure to HIV/AIDS nearly 16 percent of the time. Also, there is no scientific evidence that condoms prevent the transmission of HPV as well as a host of other sexually transmitted diseases.

Yes, a new drug has been rushed to market that is supposed to protect against certain strains of HPV, but the long-term side effects and results are unknown.

Even if sexually permissive youths manage to escape a sexual transmitted disease, there is no vaccination that will prevent dysfunctional students from becoming dysfunctional adults, incapable of understanding what it truly means to be in a loving relationship.

The best modern definition I’ve found for love is this: The commitment one makes to the best interest of another person, now and in the future.

I Corinthians 13 expands that definition, and Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to share it with the young people in your life:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

It is possible to receive love from others, but still have an inner longing that cannot be satisfied. I think of it as a homing device, installed by our Creator that leads us to Him.

Remember: The only perfect love comes from God. In I John, we are told, “We love because He first loved us.”

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