“A True Valentine”
“Love… does not rejoice in unrighteous, but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Corinthian 13:6
Have you ever wondered how Valentine’s Day ever got started? I mean, who decided that we needed to have a day set aside to celebrate love, when it is a reality that every believer must exhibit throughout all the moments of life? Well, this is what I discovered.
In Foxes Book of Martyrs, there is a story concerning Saint Valentinus (ca.269) who was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II. (As an aside it should be noted that there are actually three men who have the name Valentinus: this priest residing in Rome, one who was a bishop of Interamna, and a third who was a Christian living in a Roman province in Africa. Little is known of the other two, and most of the information that exists described the priest in Claudius’ day). According to Foxe, there was a cultural issue related to the way Claudius II governed his military. His edict was that every man in his army was to disconnect from everything in his life: home, wife, family, girlfriends, occupation, and the like. After a time, many men in Claudius’ army became disenchanted with this pattern, longing to see and embrace once again the love of their lives. Revolt, however, was out of the question, since that would mean certain death. So the soldiers did what many throughout history have done—they went stealth. An underground network was established so that these men could satisfy the passion in their hearts for the love of their lives. Some eventually sought to flee the army and begin a life with their betrothed. It is believed that Valentinus, sympathized with this cause and assisted in the network operations.
You can imagine the outrage that Claudius expressed at such an obvious treasonous rebellion to the throne. As you may know, Claudius II was instrumental in one of the seven major persecution movements against Christians in the early centuries. In time, Valentinus was found, captured, and ultimately sentenced to death by the Roman Despot. It is said that the priest was beaten with clubs and beheaded on February 14, 269 or 270. (You can read about Valentinus and other men and women who have been martyred for the cause of Christ through the centuries in Foxes Book of Martyrs now published by the ministry Voice of the Martyrs).
It appears that St. Valentine was defending the reality of genuine love. Love has truly been twisted in our culture to mean a lot of different things that have nothing to do with the New Testament understanding of love. Perhaps one of the clearest definition of agape love is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians church. He writes, 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 account of a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
Love is a significant marker in the life of every believer. Not a feeling of warmth in the chest, but a decision of the will, an activity of the mind, and an expression of the flesh which aims for the highest good of the one receiving it. God in Christ loved us…seeking our highest good. He commands, then, that all who are his kids to love with the same passion and focus. It certainly demands sacrifice and surrender. But the way that the world will know we are serious about our relationship with Christ is by the love we exhibit (see Matthew 5 and John 13).
So this Valentine’s Day, express love—to God, family, neighbor, and enemy.
Blessing on the Journey,