As we are preparing to celebrate Valentine’s Day here in the USA and all over the world I cannot help but wonder if people actually know what they are celebrating and why. Many times, traditions develop over time, as holidays or special celebrations become traditional. Those who celebrate usually forget the reason for the celebration, especially as time passes and new generations come on the scene, not necessarily directly connected to the celebrations and traditions. I feel that this is the case with Valentine’s Day, or the day of “lovers” as some have suggested. In this article I would like to give the history of St. Valentine and the reason why we celebrate his day in many parts of the world as well as share how to celebrate “True Love” from a biblical perspective.
The traditions of Valentine’s Day trace back to the days of the Romans. This pagan empire and world leader had many different “gods” and used many different occasions to worship these gods and celebrate them. In the late winter/early spring the Romans would celebrate the coming spring and “mating” season by celebrating Lupercalia (Wolf-Festival). Once the Romans were converted to Christianity the pagan holiday was replaced by another, celebrating love. This is where St. Valentine comes on the scene. In the 3rd Century, Emperor Claudius 2ndforbade his soldiers to marry because he wanted them to go to war. Claudius was nicknamed “Claudius the Cruel” because of his bloody wars. Priest Valentine (Valentinus = valens = worthy) was a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and promoter of morality as it is taught in the Word of God. Priest Valentine continued to marry the soldiers to their wives even though if caught he would have been put to death. He did not want the young people living in immorality and he respected and honored marriage, so he was obedient to God instead of the emperor. As a result, priest Valentine was discovered and decapitated for his “crime”. In order to celebrate his death (some say around February 14th) the young lovers who were married by him chose to celebrate his life and service. This date and the fact that the young lovers were celebrating, came to be known as Valentine’s Day and was considered the day of lovers (married lovers who enjoyed their marriage because of Priest Valentine’s respect and obedience to the Word of God).
As time has passed people have forgotten the emphasis of the holiday, marriage, and as a result this celebration has unfortunately turned into a day of immorality. Marriage is placed on the back burner and all people are encouraged to celebrate “love” in all types of forms, whether married or not. This is wrong from a biblical perspective as well as from the origins of the holiday. In order to understand “true love” and be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day as it was intended then we must understand God’s love, experience God’s love, and then love others with God’s love. In order to do this then we must turn to the pages of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible or Word of God. As you know, the New Testament was written in the Greek language. The Greek language is different from our beloved English language. In Greek, there are 4 different words used to express what we call “love”. I would like to focus on two of these words so that we can understand God’s love and where many have gone wrong in celebrating Valentine’s Day. The first word is “eros” and if you have not guessed it yet, this is the origin of our word “erotic”. This is passionate love, love that is conditional and based on personal satisfaction and fleshly desires. This love is not even used in the Word of God because it is so selfish. Unfortunately, this is the type of love that is normally celebrated on Valentine’s Day. The second word that I would like to consider is the Greek word “agape” which is almost the total opposite of “eros”. Agape is self-less, unconditional, based on giving and meeting the needs of others before your own. Agape comes from God while eros is inborn within us. I would like to take a look at how we can experience agape love and share it with others.
True love has its origins in God and comes to man through God. The golden verse of the Bible is John 3:16 which reads.
God is the One who is love and initiates love in the life of each individual person. God does not love in word only but more importantly in deed. He loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us. In the oriental mind-set, if a father has to choose between his life and the life of his only son then he gladly will give up his life for the life of his son. God paid the ultimate price to demonstrate His love to us and to give us this love. Our part in the equation is to believe, to accept, understand, follow, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. If and when we do that, then we will receive the love of God and be able to show the love of God to others. The most interesting part about this is the fact that God did this for us while we were sinners, enemies working against Him.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).
True love is reciprocal. God shows His love to us and places His love in us so that we in turn can love Him back and show His love to others. The Bible and Christianity has been summed up by Jesus Christ in the Great Commandments:
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL ! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD ; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Once we experience God’s love then we are able to demonstrate it back to Him and also demonstrate it to others. In order celebrate Valentine’s Day properly we must have first experienced the love of God so that we can show that same love to others, especially to our spouses within the confines of marriage.
In order to celebrate Valentine’s Day correctly we must promote marriage as the place where True Love is demonstrated. This is nothing new. God’s plan for love and marriage was demonstrated in the very beginning, in the book of Genesis.
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife ; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 1:28, 2:24)
God allows true love as well as eros love to be demonstrated only within the confines of marriage. The man and the woman experience eros love only after they were joined in the confines of marriage. If we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day then we must promote “love” in its proper setting, within the confines of marriage. That seems so foreign to the 21st Century mindset but it needs to be taught because there are consequences for promoting and experiencing eros love outside of marriage. We will look at the consequences in a moment but first we must take a look at another aspect of celebrating Valentine’s Day, discouraging immorality.
Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry ; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (I Corinthians 7:1-2, 9)
How is immorality promoted? When a man (or woman) touches a woman who is not his wife. The word touch does not mean a simple hand shake or pat on the back but instead it literally means “to start a fire”. When a man touches a woman who is not his wife in a way that stimulates her and him at the same time then that leads to immorality. Unfortunately, today, Valentine’s Day is a time when men and women who are not married are encouraged to start fires with each other that can only be put out with the sexual relationship. The sexual relationship can only be experienced in marriage if immorality is to be discouraged and avoided. Why should immorality be avoided and discouraged? Because God will judge those who practice immorality.
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled ; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
How do we see this judgment here and now on this earth? There are several forms but I will only mention 4. The first is STD’s. As a country, we are destroying our next generation(s) because of STD’s (which could be prevented by living sexually pure/moral lives). Another consequence is that you come to your marriage bed with dirty experiences and dirty thoughts that will haunt you while you try to enjoy your husband or wife in marriage. Just imagine is you bless your spouse with an STD on your wedding night because of your immoral lifestyle. Or, imagine that you are spending time with your wife but images of previous experiences pop in your mind. Also, imagine if you are constantly wondering if your spouse is thinking of you or previous experiences in life. It is not a nice thought and it is a consequence of immorality. Truly celebrate Valentine’s Day by discouraging immorality and promoting marriage.
Finally, true love is practical, useful for everyday life. Once again we will turn to the Apostle Paul to see how true love is lived out on a daily basis.
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 ; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away ; if there are tongues, they will cease ; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. (I Corinthians 13:4-8)
There are two lists mentioned here in this text: what love is not and then what love is. We see how love can be lived out on a daily basis in practical ways. My prayer is that we can truly celebrate Valentine’s Day by celebrating it according to the Word of God.