We do loving things for those we love on Valentine’s Day. There’s a fascinating Christian story behind the centuries-old tradition. May we be challenged this day (and beyond) to think and act beyond our normal routine. ◊
You may or may not have heard the real story of a Roman Christian priest named Valentine who defied the edict handed down by the Emperor Claudius (268-270 AD) that prohibited the marriage of young people. This edict was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers and/or would be more willing to fight in war without the burden of a wife and family back home.
This idea was rejected by many Christians who decided simply to not enlist in defiance. Many proceeded to marry in secret despite the edict and Valentine willingly performed these Christian weddings in private ceremonies.
Valentine was finally caught and thrown in jail and tortured for performing these marriage ceremonies. It is said that while in prison he converted 46 members of a guard’s family to Christianity. On February 14, 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced, beaten, stoned, and decapitated for failure to denounce his Christian faith.1
The story goes that the last words he wrote, “from your Valentine,” to a young woman he helped and who supported and encouraged him, inspired today’s romantic notes sent each year on Valentine’s Day.
A Card, Flowers, and Chocolates?
While not a very romantic story, we do well in the modern era with Valentine’s Day all around the world by doing loving things for those we love. We write thoughtful words on a card, give gifts of flowers and chocolate treats. Perhaps a romantic dinner. We’re even taught as children to give cards and candies to our fellow classmates as a recognized act of kindness and love.
The word Love is mentioned in the Bible almost 300 times; the word romance is not mentioned at all.
The Bible covers two types of love: phileo. and agape. Phileo love is considered “brotherly love” and is most often exhibited in a close friendship. The Bible account of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-3) is an example of phileo love. Agape love is sacrificial and unconditional. In its truest form it is not achieved without the Spirit of God in us and working through us. It is best represented by God’s love for us. In the Bible, while it is demonstrated in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), it is best articulated in 1 Corinthians 13:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Valentine’s Godly Love
Valentine, the Christian priest, lost his life because he loved and believed and held up the Word of God and the sanctity of marriage. Just as the Apostle Paul wrote the passage above from his Letter to the Corinthians, he further articulated the foundation of love in a marriage between a man and a woman;
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word….and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:25-26, 33)
Beyond the normal niceties of Valentine’s Day, may we all be challenged (men and women) to love and respect each other in tangible, Godly ways. Here is a reminder of a Valentine Love List to consider for today, Valentine’s Day, as well as tomorrow and everyday going forward:
- Pleasing – Are you eager to please and make your Valentine happy? Are you seeking their joy and happiness?
- Patient – Are you slow to anger? Are you restless and impatient?
- Kind – Are you tender, sweet and gentle? Do you show thoughtfulness?
- Unselfish – Do you seek your own way? Do you put your Valentine first or are you self-serving?
- Humble – Are you arrogant and prideful? Are you boastful?
- Forgiving – Do you bitterly hold grudges? Can you easily forgive and move past faults and mistakes?
- Good – Are you on the side of good? Are you of noble character?
- Joyful – Are you fun and happy to be around? Do you make your Valentine joy-filled?
- Peaceful – Do you cause and make peace between you? Is your home a peaceful and safe place?
- Uplifting – Are you encouraging? Do you make your Valentine feel better about their own self?
- Loving – Do you cherish your Valentine with words of love and devotion?
- Admiring – Do you show and express words of admiration for your Valentine?
- Demonstrative – Do you lovingly touch and demonstrate physical affection for your Valentine?
Jesus loved and died for all of mankind, regardless of our worth or behavior. Regardless of our treatment of Him. In that sense he modeled for us true Love – agape love. And we’re to love each other like that (particularly husbands and wives). In real practice, we are to love our Valentine in Christ-like ways that are anything but selfish, base, mean, ruling, loud, impatient, and sullen.
This year take Valentine’s Day to heart. Love your Valentine with right, deep, even holy resolve. Move in actions that reflect character, character that is being molded by the power and love of God in your own spirit and life. Our lives and marriages will be all the better for it.
Are you loving your Valentine?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
1St. Valentine – the Real Story, by David Kithcart, CBN Ministries, https://www1.cbn.com/st-valentine-real-story.