Beyond Cards and Chocolates

Ah, love is in the air! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, a day for romance and lovers. Or is it? Would the real Valentine (yes, he was a real person, not a cherub who shot arrows) even recognize our February 14 celebration?
Valentine was a priest in Rome who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius was not a nice guy. During his rule, Claudius engaged Rome in several bloody battles. The battles were fierce, and to keep his army strong the Emperor needed to continuously recruit soldiers. (Soldiers have a way of needing to be replaced.) However, according to legend, Claudius found that many men resisted joining the army because of their wives and children. So, through a stroke of genius, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome, thus eliminating the primary excuse for not going into battle.
However, word spread among young Roman lovers who wanted to get married despite the Emperor’s decree, that there was a priest who would secretly arrange marriages of young men and women. The priest was Father Valentine – not so much a romantic at heart, but an early advocate of the separation of church and state. Unfortunately, Valentine’s defiance made him famous. When the news of the rouge priest reached Claudius, he ordered Valentine’s arrest. The priest was arrested, brutally tortured and finally put to death on February 14, about 270 AD.
For his martyrdom, Valentine was named a Saint after his death. By the Middle Ages, Saint Valentine became popular as the patron saint of lovers. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. Thus, Saint Valentine’s martyrdom day became an occasion to celebrate love.
Over the years, St. Valentine’s Day has become associated with red hearts and roses. It is the ultimate day of romance. But Father Valentine most likely would not recognize the idea of love we observe on his day. Love, for Valentine, was not a pink card with mushy poetry. Love was risking your life and standing up against evil. There was little time for romance under the reign of Claudius II.
But let’s not give up on love, just yet. Let’s see what the Bible has to tell us about love. Probably the best Biblical definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. It is read at most weddings. The funny thing is that it doesn’t describe love as an emotion. It describes love as action and attitude. It says that love is patient, kind and humble. It says that love is never rude and does not demand its own way, and it always seeks the best for the other person.
Where are the candles and the chocolates? Not there. Now, I’m not trying to put the chocolate makers out of business, but what if our celebration of St. Valentine’s Day went beyond “romance” and included a Biblical definition of love? What if we spent the days prior to and following February 14 as days we practice being patient and seeking the best for those we love? How did you express your love by your action and attitude yesterday?
This kind of love doesn’t need to be reserved for one special day, and can even be shared with all the people in your life. This St. Valentine’s Day, let’s go beyond the card and chocolates. Let us love one another in action and attitude, for love is of God.
With love,