I never liked Valentine’s Day. It just seemed like another way for capitalism to reach deeper into our pockets and have us spend money on frivolous things. Don’t get me wrong – I love the chocolate (especially the day-after sales), but a holiday that focuses on love can be really difficult and isolating for so many people. So let’s take Valentine’s Day back to its roots.
Valentine of Rome was a Christian priest who was persecuted under Claudius II for helping Christians. Valentine was arrested and put in prison for marrying Christian couples, and helping other Christians to escape persecution. After trying to convert the emperor to Christianity, he was beaten with stones, clubbed, and killed on February 14, 269. In the year 496, February 14 was named as a day of celebration by the church in St. Valentine’s honor. Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples, beekeepers, happy marriages, lovers, travelers, young people, and greetings.
While Valentine’s Day has become a day of recognizing the love in our lives – whether with a spouse, a partner, our children, our family, or our friends – it is also day to celebrate and honor the fierceness of Christian love. It was the sharing of this fierce love, found in Jesus Christ, that got Valentine tortured and killed in the first place.
English writer G.K. Chesterton said, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” This is what I want to honor, not just in regards to Valentine’s Day, but throughout this entire season of Lent. While some would disagree, Christianity isn’t about having the right theology and following the right doctrine. Rather, it is about sharing the love that we have in Jesus Christ with the world. As we walk these 40 days of Lent, we are walking the journey with the one who demonstrated the vastness of God’s love by dying on the cross. So rather than thinking about what to give up during Lent as a spiritual discipline, I would challenge all of us to think about what can we add to share the fierce love of Jesus Christ to the world.
I pray that God would help us to distinguish between the love that keeps merely human affection in the center of things, and the love that Christ bore in his sacrificial life, death, and resurrection.
-Kelsey Fitting-Snyder, pastor in residency