by Bob Burridge ©2019
Valentine’s Day has become a traditional celebration centered on showing love for the special people in our lives. It’s based upon stories about a Christian man by the name Valentinus who is said by some to have been born in 269 AD in the town of Terni, Italy. There is very little reliable information about him or the things he did. There are various traditions which portray him as a minister of the early church who performed Christian marriages in defiance of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus. Some say that these marriages fueled Rome’s hatred of Christianity, and reduced the number of men available for military service since they could cite their marriage as an exemption from serving. One tradition is that Valentinus was sent to prison for refusing to sacrifice to Rome’s gods. While there it’s claimed that he healed the jailer’s daughter who had been blind. When executed he left her a note signed, “Your Valentine“.
We don’t really know if such a man existed or if it was all just legends that were circulated among certain groups in the early times of the church. The celebration commemorating him has become a popular time for exchanging chocolate hearts, giving of Valentine cards, and a time for romantic and family gatherings, special meals, and parties. The key word for Valentine’s Day is “love”. It’s particularly directed toward our love for those who are specially close to us.
Biblically, love is an important characteristic we all need to develop in our lives. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus was asked what was the foremost of all the commandments. His answer, quoting the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, was that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
If Jesus said love is a summation of all the law and prophets, then we need to know what it means to love, what love looks like when it’s present, and how to develop love in our lives.
1 Corinthians 13 teaches a profoundly different kind of love than what the world understands. God’s word describes what a true love produces in our lives. There the Apostle Paul 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 into account 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.”
We ought to love God in all these ways. As we encounter what our Lord brings into our lives each day, we should be patient, kind, not jealous of others, not bragging or arrogant, or acting in an unbecoming way. We don’t put ourselves first, and are not provoked by our circumstances and by how we are treated as God’s plan unfolds around us. Our focus is not on the wrongs performed toward us, and we find our joy in truth rather than things that are unrighteous. We believe and hope in all things God has made known to us in his word. We endure unfailingly through all that comes our way.
We need to love others God brings into our lives; our spouses, children, and our neighbors in this world. Husbands are commanded in Ephesians 5:25 to love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave his life for his people. The love of husbands toward their wives should therefore be sacrificial, not taking advantage of them or using them for their own benefits. Parents are to love their children as gifts of God and as entrustments God gave for them to raise them to know and to love the Lord.
In loving our God we should be inwardly motivated by the work of the Holy Spirit in all things so that redeemed believers in Jesus the Messiah will honor God’s revealed moral principles. We will honor God above all else and worship him in the ways he specifies, use his name thoughtfully and respectfully, and respect the principle of Sabbath rest set in motion back in Eden. We will honor our parents, respect the value of human life, be faithful to our spouses, honor what God gives to others, speak truthfully, and respect what God gives to others without coveteousness.
This legitimate love is stirred in us who are regenerated by grace so that it would display the love of God for his people. When we tell others we love them, or send them a “Valentine”, we should keep these biblical features of love in mind so that God’s greater love can be seen in us. Of course we should do that every day, not just on February 14th. But maybe that traditional day can remind us of what should be seen in our lives all the time, particularly toward those God has specially brought into our lives.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)