The Legend of Valentine
by David Dahl
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)
How would you complete this sentence: Interesting times call for _________________________. . . . a good investment manager? Prayer? Diligence? Creativity? How about a steady hand? A bowl of ice cream wouldn’t hurt! Maybe it requires a bit of everything. What is certain, interesting times cause a lot of soul-searching.
Our reading through The Story has caused us to examine just how tough and brutal human history is. Yet, we have the stories of people in the Bible and in our extended history that inspire us to fully embrace Jesus’ saving grace. Let’s hear the story of one of the saints we celebrate this month!
In our time, Valentine’s Day celebrates giddy love. But its history is full of soul-searching: “What do I love so much that I’m willing to die for it.”
To be honest, Valentine’s Day is a mixing of stories. History records at least three Valentines – all of whom were martyred for their choice to follow Jesus in interesting and difficult times.
The first Valentine was a priest who saw that marriage was an essential part of men and women living out the Christian faith. But government stood in the way. Roman Emperor Claudius II, in order to boost his army, specified that only single men qualified to serve in the army. Single men would be more willing to participate in long tours and more willing to take stations far away from home, because they had no intimate family attachments.
So . . . many men chose to dodge the draft by getting married. Thus, the government banned marriage! Pastor Valentinus, in an effort to defend the sacred calling for men and women to marry, performed weddings in secret. Well, he got caught. He was tried and sentenced to death for violating the law.
Here is where history turns into a bit of legend. While he awaited execution, accounts say that he was showered with notes from young couples praising the virtues of love over war. (Yep, they had hippies in the 3rd century too!) These notes were the first Valentines. For refusing to renounce his faith and for his undying defense of God’s intention for men and women to marry, Valentinus was beaten with clubs and beheaded February 14th, 269 A.D.
Later, a second man named Valentinus was put in prison for helping imprisoned Christians. He was not initially a Christian; he sympathized with the plight of Christians. And impressed with the jailed Christians he served, he received Christ himself. Knowing he was going to die, he wrote letters to his friends that included the line, “Remember your Valentine.”
Another piece of legend asserts that Valentine was a priest who was arrested for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods. While in prison, he taught about and witnessed to God’s redemption through Jesus, and he prayed for those around him. It was said that through his prayers, the jailer’s daughter was healed. On the day of his execution, he left her a note signed “Your Valentine.”
There are other stories of the Valentines of this period of history. What grips me is that they lived in interesting times where the politics of their day forced them to read and pray through the Bible in ways they had not up to that point. They came to the conclusion that marriage was a sacred part of God’s intention for us human beings. The love that God meant for us to share with each other was worth dying for. And they made that commitment as they met these times with determination, prayer, and a steady hand.
To prepare His disciples for “interesting times”, Jesus shared these words: 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus went on to explain that the world will be against them, but He had chosen them to be expressions of God’s presence and love – to the point of laying down their lives. This is what Valentine’s Day is all about.
God’s Upper Story purpose is the saving of the human race. In that pursuit, everyone needs to know that God cares and loves them and so do we. So pray for this family of faith that we would reflect God’s love and extend His rescue in all that we do. And don’t forget to send your Valentine’s greetings!
Let us all Keep and Live the Faith! -Pr. Dave Dahl
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