Emmanuel Lutheran

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Evalgelical Lutheran Church in America Northeastern Ohio Synod
Letters from Pastor Alan Smearsoll

February 2023

The month of February brings with it Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day has its roots in the Feast of St. Valentine, declared by Pope Gelassius I in 496 AD to commemorate the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. It wasn’t until the 1400’s that this day became associated with “love” as we know it today. For centuries, sentimental cards were exchanged and love expressed, but some might argue that it really didn’t take off until a certain card company began marketing this special day back in the mid 1980’s and other industries (chocolate, flower, restaurant) capitalized on this “new” holiday, today putting it up there with Halloween and Christmas in terms of marketing and sales.

Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we think of love, we think of feelings and emotions. The Greek word “agapao” is used by Jesus. This agape love is different than we understand it.

Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom. 15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,’ Gal. 6:10….In respect to agapao as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant “love” and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing and fostering a reverential “love” in them towards the Giver, and practical “love” towards those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and new Testament Words, 1996

This is the attitude God takes when it comes to us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only “son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). It is the love of one dying on a cross who offers Paradise to a criminal.

Our love for God and neighbor, as good as it may be, is obviously not the agape love that God desires for us to share. We are imperfect in love, for we tend to want to attach some sort of condition to it or (especially in this day and age) only want to love those who we find to be like-minded.

As you think about love this Valentine’s Day, consider the unconditional love that God has first given you, tangibly expressing that love with the cross as his valentine card, Holy Communion as his dinner, and his peace shared as his “kiss.” The best way you can respond to that love is to love others in this same way. The love that is not returned but forwarded is the greatest gift of love God can receive from you.

Pastor Alan

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