Greetings again beloved,
Tuesday, February 14, will be Saint Valentine’s Day. If you work a corporate job, someone will decorate a cubicle somewhere with red, pink, and white trim along with heart-shaped trinkets. You know how much I like “decor”, and you probably know how know my preference is to keep celebrations in their lane, rather than a month-long affair. On Sunday, February 12, Ms. Leigh will undoubtedly be disappointed that my music selections will not be enough about love, but perhaps by channeling my inner DollarTree cubicle decoration and devoting this article to Saint Valentine, I’ll make it up to her, haha!
According to Roman Catholic sources, which could always be questioned in my opinion (particularly the medieval ones), there are three different dudes named Valentine that were declared to be saints (Baptists don’t “venerate saints”) in the third century after the coming of the Christ. It is my contention that much of the Saint Valentine’s Day lore is a mish-mash of the three, but the most popular tradition is tied to a Bishop of Terni (a town in central Italy). Supposedly, Valentine practiced Christian marriage rites affecting the ability of the Roman army to conscript husbands into military service (married men couldn’t get drafted as easily or something). Despite warnings from the pagan Roman government for him to stop the practice, it is said that Valentine continued to do so. Drawing the ire of military and political leaders, he was put to death. Without objection, he is recognized as a martyr because of his commitment to Christ.
Some recognize Saint Valentine as the “patron saint” of love (have I mentioned my thankfulness that Baptists don’t venerate?). Fast forward 1800 years and add a dash of American commercialism, and you get the red-clad, overpriced meal, obligatory flowers, and mediocre candy day we all know. Though it has evolved into a day of romance, let’s all take stock of the fact that Valentine was violently put to death on February 14.
As I have stated in the past, we have a rather cheap understanding of “love” in our culture. The love that Valentine understood was less about romance, and more about sacrifice. Yes, he’s associated with performing weddings, but bear with me. This priest lived in a world where Christians were actively being persecuted by a pagan empire. This priest was faithful to the God of the bible. This priest understood what it meant to count the cost of confessing Jesus as his Savior and Lord. This priest dedicated himself to his God and served others, all the while knowing that it might cost him his life. He knew of Jesus’ sacrifice for his salvation, and he was willing to sacrifice too. This selfless love is much deeper than romance. This αγαπη (agape`) love is the holy love we learn about from God’s Word. This love is a love of God. I John 4:8 tells is that God is love. This is a love that we have for God, but the prerequisite is that this is a love that comes from God to us. John 3:16 gives us the greatest manifestation of this love. God the Father loved us; therefore God the Son died to save us.
If we want to celebrate love – and there is nothing wrong with celebrating love – let’s think through a love of God. Let’s ponder the love from God, the love that we get to experience. Let’s ponder our love for God: do we love Him with all of our heart, soul, and strength? I dare say we all have room for improvement. Third, let’s ponder our own willingness to love our neighbor as our self? Fourth, if we want to apply this godly love in a romantic context, let’s ask this question: for whom are we willing to lay down our lives, and how do we show that love every day? If you have a “sweetheart” and you two celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, thank God for loving you first, read Philippians 2:3, and love one another better this year than you did last!
Amazing love, I know it’s true;
and it’s my joy to honor You!
Rev. Andrew J. Reynolds