by Bruce Strom
I loved Valentine’s Day as a kid. We all exchanged little cards and had a party in the classroom. Sure the cookies were shaped like hearts, but the icing was fantastic! As a young man I grew a little more cynical. I thought Valentine’s Day was a capitalist conspiracy coercing young men to go broke. Those chocolates, roses, cards and dinner were expensive. The average person spends $116 on Valentine’s Day which is a 13.3 Billion Dollar a year industry.
Now that I’ve been married 26 years, I don’t carry that same cynicism. I like Valentine’s Day – not as much for the romantic elements we’ve come to associate the holiday with (though I certainly don’t object to those) – but for having a day to celebrate love. In a world full of hate, anger and fear, it is nice to celebrate the greatest power of all – love. Certainly I believe that love emanates from a loving God, but I appreciate even the secular reminder to love one another.
I believe God loves all people. In fact he loves us so much that he sent his only son to die for us. Jn. 3:16. As we love God with all our heart, mind and soul, we are compelled to love our neighbor also. This love of neighbor is why I appreciate the legend of St. Valentine. While history agrees that a priest named Valentine lived in Rome under Claudius II, the remainder of the story may or may not be historically accurate. But it is a great story.
The story of St. Valentine says that Claudius would not allow his soldiers to marry believing it would distract them from fighting. Valentine refused to follow this law and performed weddings of soldiers. As a result he was imprisoned. While in prison he healed the blind daughter of his jailer which led to her accepting Christ and being baptized along with her father and their entire household. That is love. It is said Valentine wrote to this girl on the eve of his execution and signed the note, “Your Valentine”.
Whether completely true or not it is worth emulating a life that refused to put limits on love even to the point of loving one’s enemy – one’s jailer. We need that kind of love in the world this Valentine’s Day. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jn. 15:13. That is precisely what St. Valentine did.
Jesus said the world would know we were his disciples if we showed love for one another. Jn. 13:35. In a world filled with negative attacks and hateful comments, that love is refreshing. That love demonstrates mercy and compassion to a world in need. Jesus demonstrated that love to us so that we would follow His example in loving service toward others.
So why Valentine’s Day? To remember the importance of love. Celebrate romantic love, but remember the legend of St. Valentine and the truth of Jesus who modeled sacrificial love for others. Happy Valentine’s Day. May we follow their examples as we
Go and Do Likewise.