I just got back from the Hallmark Store and was amazed at the variety and sizes of Valentine’s Day cards, gifts and knick-knacks one could purchase for their “loved one.” I began wondering if this whole Valentine’s Day was just another racket that the greeting card industry invented to drum up some business (yeah, they got my $30, too!)
But I remembered that Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with hearts, cupids and little candies that say “Would you be mine?” Valentine (or “Valentinus” as he was known in the 3rd century A.D.) was a real, flesh and blood person. He was a follower of Jesus who lived during the tyrannical reign of Claudius II, emperor of Rome. This emperor hated Christians and made it mandatory for all Roman citizens to worship the twelve Roman gods. He also made it a capital punishment (penalty of death) not only to be a Christian, but to even associate with a Christian.
However, Valentinus’ love for Christ was greater than an emperor’s wrath. He proclaimed Christ freely and boldly. As a result, he was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to death.
While he was awaiting his sentencing, Valentinus’ jailer came to him and asked him if he would tutor his daughter, Julia, who was blind since birth. Being a learned man and filled with the love of Christ, Valentinus was happy to help his captor’s daughter. Julia was a quick learner and discovered the world through Valentinus’ eyes – which was the world through Jesus’ eyes.
Inspired by his faith, Julia asked Valentinus, “Does God really hear our prayers?” Valentinus answered, “Of course. He hears every one.” She went on to explain how she asked God every morning to give her sight, so she could see this wonderful world Valentinus told her about. Valentinus told her, “God does what is best for us if we only believe.” She exclaimed intensely, “Oh, I believe!”
At that moment, a brilliant light flooded the prison cell. Julia shouted, “I can see! I can see!” And Valentinus cried, “Praise God!” and worshipped Christ.
On the eve of his execution, Valentinus wrote a letter to Julia, urging her to stay close to Jesus. He signed it, “From your Valentine.” He was then executed on Feb. 14, 270 A.D. Julia planted an pink blossomed almond tree near his grave and carried on the message of Christ’s transforming love to others.
That is what Valentine’s Day is all about. It’s not about getting “twiterpated” or having a romantic evening with your significant other. It’s about love; true love. It’s about love that emboldens a man to not deny truth in the face of death. It’s about love that turns enemies (captors) into friends. It’s about love that heals the blind and transforms the marginalized. No human love has this capability or power. Valentine’s Day is about no other love than God’s love.
So celebrate this day in the spirit of Valentinus and Jesus: forgive your enemy, do a random act of kindness, pray for a hurting person. This is the type of love our world so desperately needs.
What are some ideas you have on showing God’s love to people, beyond our loved ones?
How has someone showed God’s love to you recently?