A bouquet of flowers, a perfectly wrapped box of luxury chocolates, decorative red hearts and a romantic meal. Isn’t that what Valentine’s day is all about, right? Well, maybe not. So far as the history goes there is little that is certain. The day probably replaced a Roman fertility festival in the 5th century. Behind it is a saint called ‘Valentine’ but a choice of various characters all make convincing bids for the title.
A well-known legend concerns a 3rd Century Roman priest. While Emperor Claudius II reigned he decided that unmarried men made better soldiers and so he outlawed marriage for single men in his service. In secret Valentine performed marriages between young men and women and led to his popularity. But this was his undoing and as a result he was executed. Another legend suggests that Valentine fell in love with a girl who visited him while in prison. Before his execution he wrote a letter, signed “from your Valentine”. The expression was used subsequently in a romantic way.
If we want to look at the nature of true love, we have to dig deeper than the romantic cards and gifts. Even though Valentine’s Day is highly commercialized, the one thing it gets right is to remind us that lovedoes something – to love is to act, or it is not love at all.
The practical nature of love is seen from the words of a passage often used at weddings, some of which reads:‘Love is patient, love is kind…it always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres’ (I Cor 13v4,7). The way it describes love is self-giving and self-sacrificial, this is the nature of God’s love for us and to be shown towards others.
A similar theme is true when we look at what a love for God involves. It too is self-giving and self-sacrificial in terms of a devotion to Jesus, who said: ‘If you love me, you will obey what I command’ (John 14v15).‘You are my friends if you do what I command’ (John 15v14).
The challenge is to ask: how do I express my love for Jesus Christ? Does it involve doing anything? Should it involve changing so that I readily learn to follow his way? Am I prepared to sacrifice something in the service of the one who voluntarily gave himself up for me?
Let’s explore together this Lent what a true love for the Lord Jesus means.