On the day when Americans will spend $18.6 billion on Valentine’s candy, cards, gifts, flowers and other items in the celebration of love, it’s easy to forget that the historic Feast of St. Valentine in the Western liturgical church calendar focused on the martyrdom of a priest who stood for the cause of Christ in the third century A.D.
Although some uncertainty surrounds the details of the life and death of the saint whose Latin name was Valentinus, according to one account he was arrested for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians in an era when offering them comfort was forbidden in the Roman Empire. Eventually, Valentine was brought before Emperor Claudius II, who initially liked him. However, when Valentine refused to worship Roman gods and, instead, attempted to convert Claudius to Christ, he was beaten and then beheaded on February 14 outside the Flaminian Gate.
Another account places Valentinus as the former Bishop of Terni, in modern-day central Italy. Here, he shared Christ with a Roman judge and laid hands on his blind daughter’s eyes and restored her sight. This caused the judge to break the pagan idols in his household, release all the Christian inmates under his jurisdiction, and become baptized – along with 40 others.
Valentine continued to share the Gospel and was later arrested and sent to Rome where he refused to recant his faith to Claudius. For this, he was beaten and beheaded.
The common thread to these accounts is that of a valiant and brave man of faith who was willing to pay the ultimate price for what he knew to be true. Here, the story of Valentine points us to the sacrificial love of a valiant and brave Jesus, who as the God-man was martyred on our behalf so that all who put their faith in Him might be restored into right relationship with God and live abundantly now and into eternity.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, New International Version)
As the world rightfully and joyously celebrates love on February 14th each year, let’s not forget that as Faith Driven Consumers we, too, are called to make daily sacrifices and live out our faith in a consumer arena that tempts us with all manner of idols to worship.
Like Valentine, will we sacrificially refuse to bow down to our culture’s idols and instead seek to glorify Jesus in all that we say and do? The choice is ours. And it’s a choice based in love.