Valentine’s Day can sometimes be a real pain. Seriously. If you don’t have a valentine, you either feel left out or you end up annoyed with the world for putting this day up on a pedestal just to sell cards, roses, and candy. I've been on both sides. More recently, I've been getting frustrated when people use Valentine’s Day to emphasis love in the wrong ways. The fluffy love they talk about is the love of fairy tales, the type of love dependent on feelings and emotions, and ends up being quite selfish. That’s not what God intended love to be. It also upsets me because the man we should be remembering on the day did not condone that type of love either. In fact, I think Saint Valentine would be against it.
The Story of Saint Valentine
There isn't complete agreement about the life of Saint Valentine. Some would argue that much of what is believed about him is not based on historic fact. However, about 10 years ago, Focus on the Family released an episode of Adventures in Odyssey (LOVED that radio show when I was a kid) about Saint Valentine called “The Last ‘I Do.’” I want to share the story of Saint Valentine based on their interpretation. (I tried to distinguish some of the details I know were made up for the show by adding "In Odyssey") Here’s what you learn in that episode:
Now I know that this version of the story was fictionalized, but I still think that some of these stories are true. Many of these details are pretty consistent throughout all the different versions of his life, specifically the healing the jailer's daughter, his refusal to renounce his faith, and his martyrdom on what became his Saint Day. As I listened to this version of his story, two things stand out to me, things that I think should be the emphasis of Valentine’s Day: marriage and sacrificial love.
Marriage – Something Worth Fighting For
Valentine was one of the greatest champions for marriage to ever live. He died in the defense of marriage. It doesn't get any more real than that. However, Valentine’s Day has become a day to celebrate all types of relationships. Dating relationships and even crushes are also celebrated on Valentine’s Day. I think that in many ways, we miss the point when we choose to focus on all relationships instead of marriage specifically.
Valentine believed that marriage was an institution created by God and that no man should have the right to take away or change this institution. To be frank, I think Valentine would be grieved to see what has become of marriage and relationships in our world today. It is no longer holy. It is no longer permanent. Many spend extravagant amounts of money to make a wedding fancy, but end up saying vows that they don’t really intend to live out. Many are being extremely irresponsible with their sexual lives, to the point that marriage has become less important than “being in love,” or experiencing sexual pleasure. Marriage is no longer a necessity to parent a child. Families are not the backbone of society that they used to be, and we are paying the price for this cultural shift. This should not be.
On Valentine’s Day, I think we should celebrate marriage as the blessing from God that it is. It is a commitment between a man and a woman to be joined spiritually and sexually until death separates them. This is a beautiful thing, and a metaphor of God’s love for us. We should not allow anyone or anything to taint marriage any more that it has already been distorted by our culture. We need to win back marriage and sex from Satan’s grasp so that we can help our world see God’s divine intention for them. The sacred love within a marriage is something worth fighting for. This what this song from the movie Fireproof tells us.
Love – Giving Up Yourself
The other thing that stands out about Saint Valentine is that he cared enough about those around him that he gave up his life for their sake. He came to care for Julia so much that he did not want to leave her fatherless. He cared about those he married so much that he gave up his life so that they could be united. That’s incredible. That’s not the love of fairytales or a love based on feelings. It was even a parallel to what Jesus did for the church.
Jesus did not want us to be fatherless either. He did not want us to be without a way to know the Heavenly Father intimately and personally, so he came down to earth as a man, and became the Ransom for all transgressions. This hope we have in salvation was the ultimate motivation for Saint Valentine to give up his life, but he was able to do so because he knew the ultimate example of sacrificial love.
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings. When Frodo tells Sam that he would be leaving over Sea, Sam has a hard time accepting it. He makes a statement I will never forget, and I may expound on further in another post. This is one of the best ways that sacrifice has ever been defined.
"I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so Sam, when things are in danger. Someone must give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them."
This is the type of love that we are supposed to have for each other, especially husbands and wives. It is your motivation and your ultimate goal. You put their needs ahead your own. You don’t think about what you can get in return. You protect and defend them, no matter what. You choose forgiveness over bitterness. You let them be right instead of arguing. You chose to love them despite their flaws. You endure even when you want to give up. That is true love, and anything short of this is a counterfeit.
Sacrificial Love Isn't Grey
The kind of love people really want to know, the sacrificial love we as Christians know, isn't grey; it’s black and white. Our culture wants to believe in this type of love, but when they can’t find it, they settle for the counterfeit versions our world is selling them. That's why Fifty Shades has become so popular. We haven't given them a better alternative. We haven't given the ability to find the love that will really satisfy them. This needs to change.
As Christians, we need to learn how to have sacrificial love in our marriages and in our other relationships, so that we can demonstrate it to a world so desperately needs to know what true love is. Then, we can lead them to the foot of the cross, where they will find the love that will endure all, and teach them how to live out that same type of love in our own lives. This will be the type of love that will matter for eternity, not some man-made version with mushy feelings and "happily ever after's." As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we need to focus on celebrating the right kind of love, and how to identify when someone is trying to sell us the counterfeit.
True love is not found in porn or erotica. It’s not found in uncommitted relationships. It’s not found in many of our favorite chick flicks. It’s not found in cheesy cards and fancy dinners. It’s not even found in fancy weddings.
True love found in a marriage grounded in Christ. It’s found in the man willing to do anything to protect and provide for his family. It’s found in the woman who gives up her dreams to support her husband’s dreams. It’s found in a child that gives expecting nothing in return. It’s found at the foot of the cross. That’s where I look for it. How about you?
To conclude this post, I want to share my newest YouTube video about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s a spoken word poem that further addresses my perspective on the subject. I hope that all of you will know how to be pursue sacrificial love, this Valentine's Day, and everyday.