It’s that time of year again: plastic red hearts and roses are everywhere while radio and TV ads for jewelry and chocolates broadcast daily. Couples exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers and everyone seems to have a special “someone” to share it all with.
Love is supposed to permeate every wisp of air while naked cherub babies dance and play mad Comanche overhead. These are all reminders that even love can be commercialized. I am talking about the day we celebrate romance: Valentine’s Day.
Sure, we know all about the financial and emotional inflation that take place on this day of hearts (and spades). We’re aware that the cheap gifts are undervalued and overpriced. But…
But… what if YOU are not buying one of those cheap gifts?
What if you’ve never been hit with Cupid’s arrow?
What if you’re not in a romantic relationship?
What if you’re feeling left out?
What is Valentine’s Day for you? You might be surprised.
The Man, Valentinus
Valentine’s Day was named in honor of a man named Valentinus who lived some 1,800 years ago. He was a Christian man—a faithfully unmarried Christian. He died in prison, alone, a martyr’s death.
Around the end of the fifth century, the Roman Catholic Church venerated him with Sainthood, however, upon discovering that Valentinus was never Catholic nor under a Pope’s authority, they removed his name from Sainthood status, as well as the General Roman Calendar, making his liturgical celebration optional for local precincts.
Little is known of him, but what we do know is interesting. Valentinus was a preacher in the town of Umbria, in central Italy, during which time it was illegal to preach the gospel. Valentinus did not care; he knew it was better to obey God rather than man. With boldness he proclaimed the love of Christ. That boldness coupled with love got him arrested.
Yet, even in jail, his faith remained strong. He knew God’s Spirit was with him.
The magistrate placed over Valentinus became curious about this God for whom Valentinus was willing to die. Of course, he told this judge about Jesus. This piqued his curiosity even more and stirred his heart. The judge asked Valentinus if Christ could heal his blind daughter. Valentinus prayed that night, asking God to restore the girl’s sight. The next morning, the child awoke with perfect vision.
Immediately humbled, the magistrate asked Valentinus what he should do. Valentinus told him to believe on the Lord Jesus; he believed, destroyed every idol in his home, and was baptized by Valentinus. The newly saved magistrate then freed the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge and his family (a forty-four member household) were all baptized.
Now released, Valentinus started preaching again. And again, he was arrested. Only this time, he was sent to the prefect of Rome, Claudius Gothicus—the Emperor himself.
Emporor Claudius took a liking to Valentinus; that is, until Valentinus told him about King Jesus. Claudius would hear none of it. The Emperor gave him a choice: renounce your faith or face execution.
Valentinus stood his ground. He refused to renounce Christ and Claudius sentenced him to death. He was brutally beaten and beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269 AD.
The First Valentine
The night before his execution, alone, and on death row, Valentinus wrote several notes to encourage his family and friends to trust Christ as Saviour. He signed these notes “from your Valentine.”
That’s love. Romantic? I think so. A person who is “in love” thinks obsessively about their beloved. The energy, sleeplessness, faithfulness, and boldness are all part of it. Lovers are willing to die for one another; obstacles or adversity only heighten the passion. Lovers will literally rearrange their lives to spend more time together.
This kind of passion is wonderfully romantic. Christ was Valentine’s true love.
So, what about you?
Love is unselfish devotion.
True love doesn’t require reciprocation.
True love gives.
If being someone’s Valentine is about loving a person’s soul enough to share Christ—even in the face of death—would you still be their Valentine?
Whether you’re faithfully married or faithfully unmarried, I’m praying you’ll choose to be someone’s true Valentine by sharing Christ with them this year.