This blog was originally written for and can be found at www.forhisglorycc.org
Valentine’s Day is upon us. With it comes much history, loads of myth, and a whole bunch of confusion. I thought it would be great to take the opportunity to dissect it a bit and share why I think Valentine’s Day has perverted God’s most beautiful attribute….LOVE.
St. Valentine’s Day began as a church celebration for of a couple of early Christian saints named Valentinus, who gave their lives for the name of Christ. Two of the men recognized for their life and death were Valentine of Terni (martyred around AD 197) and Valentine of Rome (imprisoned, persecuted, and finally martyred in AD 496). It is also believed that two other saints may have contributed to the eventual celebration in the early church.
Legend states that St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by the Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. This led to his execution. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. This demonstration of sacrificial love strongly supported the early church’s celebration, thus a reason many people believed the myth to be true.
The first known connection of love with Valentine’s Day as we know it is recorded in a 14th century poem by Geoffrey Caucher. In “Parlament of Foules”, he wrote “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” The poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the marriage of King Richard II of England. This theme of birds mating was used by a few other writers during this time period to symbolize love.
In 1797, paper valentines began being produced to fill a need for people who couldn’t find the right words for their mates. Over the last 217 years, 190 million printed valentines have been exchanged while another 15 million have been sent online to express affection.
St. Valentine’s Day began as a time to celebrate sacrificial, God-glorifying love. But somehow, man began to replace this recognition of his sacrificial love for God with his romantic love for another. Commercialization has now made Valentine’s Day about candy, gifts, flowers, and crafty words (lacking in these things can create quite a bit of havoc in a household). But this isn’t a picture of true love at all.
The type of love that would inspire sacrifice for another, the foremost being God, is the Greek word agape. The closest English translation would be “unconditional love.” C.S. Lewis believed that agape love is specifically a virtue of the Christian, as it is something given by God to His people alone and inexpressible outside of that environment.
The type of love seen in Valentine’s celebrations today would be described by the Greek word eros. Eros is a romantic love and, while not distorted at the root, it can easily birth perversion when used as the driving force in a relationship or as a motivator for decision-making (sometimes described as the “heat of passion”).
True love is foundational – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus was the foundation of God’s eternal, loving plan. And Jesus made sure that his love never swayed. He was sent to love his people, and he makes sure that he sees it to the end (see John 6:39). We must make Christ the foundation for our acts of love. Because of his love for us, we are given the ability to love him, and his people too.
True love is sacrificial – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The ultimate act of love was portrayed in an eternal, sacrificial plan. Jesus wasn’t worried about what others thought, and we shouldn’t be either when it comes to demonstrating our love for what really matters. And what matters, you may ask? To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others, as Christ himself commanded us to do.
True love is unconditional – “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). The gift of love which was given to us by Christ has no strings. He loved us because of his grace and not because of our works. This means that if we commit to loving God or loving another, we need to cut the strings.
“…God is love.” 1 John 4:8
The only way we will ever understand love, experience love, demonstrate love, and desire to sacrifice for love is by being fully engulfed in Jesus. Here are some practical ways in which we can engulf ourselves in Jesus.
We must be in constant communication with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Every day should begin in prayer and end in prayer. Every decision we make should be led by prayer. Every thought should be reasoned with prayer. And most importantly, we should recognize that when we pray, we are talking directly to God so it is not as if we need to speak some special language. We just need to be ourselves.
Bible reading is essential to learning about Jesus and growing closer to Jesus. Pick a book of the Bible and read it as best as you can. If that isn’t comfortable, find a great daily devotional and start there (a few good ones here). Highlight, underline, and take notes. Then, go find a friend or a pastor and ask as many questions as come up when you read.
We are only as good as the company we keep. We were created by a communal God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and we were created to live in community with other Christians (1 Peter 2:9). Make sure you surround yourself with solid Christians who love Jesus (more than they love you). They will be there to love you, support you and correct you at all times, not just when you think you need help.
While there are many additional ways that help us to love like Jesus, the above are timeless and impossible to exhaust.