It’s Valentine’s Day
The day for love.
The day we celebrate sweet, passionate, romantic love.
The day for declaring our undying love for another.
The day for hearts, and flowers, and sweets, and cards, things colored red.
Why Valentine’s Day? Why February 14th?
February 15 was an ancient Roman holiday associated with fertility, and some of the modern Valentine traditions clearly find their roots there. But, that is not the real point of the holiday. Nope, it is not simply about romantic eros love.
I love a good story, which is why I love history, because it’s full of good stories. And the story of St. Valentine is an intriguing one. There were a lot of Valentines in the early church, and at least 6 were important in church history. There was even one pope named Valentine.
So, who was the Saint? According to one tradition, which came about in the Middle Ages, Valentine of Rome was killed for performing marriages outlawed by the Emperor Claudius II. This is where most of the modern histories of the holiday will take you. And the idea of dying for love is romantic. But, the evidence that Claudius actually outlawed marriages is sketchy. It is possible, but there is a more ancient tradition.
In the 5th century a group of scholars comprised a history of the martyrs of the church, the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum”. Some of the names on the list have brief descriptions of their stories, but many of the oldest martyrs are listed only by name and date.
Three Valentines are listed as dying on February 14th. Two of them were from Italy, and one from North Africa. All were probably killed in AD 269 or 270.
All three made the list because they refused to deny Christ and worship the Roman gods. Valentine of Rome may have even been interrogated Claudius himself. The story is that he was martyred after sharing the gospel with the emperor. All three men were tortured, beaten and then beheaded because they refused to deny their love of Christ. Then in the year of our Lord 496 February 14 was declared a day of celebration for the Christian world in their honor. St. Valentine’s Day was a day to celebrate three men who died for the Christ, who died for them.
The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to associate St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love, but that is not what these men died for. They died for love, but not for romantic eros love.
No, they died for agape love. They died because they loved God without putting any conditions on Him. They did not require God to make them happy or rich. They did not demand fair treatment from their Creator. They died to all of their desires and dreams. They put themselves on the line for the honor and the love of another. They died for the One they loved. They died for the One who had died for them. Now that is real love.
Not that we have loved God but He loved us
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10
As a husband, a father, and a grandfather I will tell you that the most important thing for me is that my family would be so in love with God that they would die for Him.
Now, I am not wishing anyone in my family a martyr’s death, although I know their real home is in heaven. What I am talking about is much harder.
God is honored when we choose to love Him and love others instead of choosing to love ourselves. That is what St. Valentine’s Day should be all about. The saints known as Valentine, died to show the world that their love of God was more important than even life itself.
When I see my family serving others and serving Him my heart stirs within my soul and emotion overwhelms me. They get it! When we pour themselves out for others in the name of Christ, when we give up their own desires and dreams to invest in the lives of others Christ is magnified. And that kind of love is the stuff of legends.
Valentine’s Day is about love, but not just silly sentiment or erotic appeal. It is about a deeper love, a more ancient love. My King died for me so that I could live for Him.
What will you say when God asks “Would you be my Valentine?”
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21 (ESV)
Guest blogger: David Lawson