Peace to the church, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus with an undying love.”
– Ephesians 6: 23-24.

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.” – Hebrews 13:1

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
–1 Peter 4: 8

“I am not writing you a new commandment but one we have had since the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that you keep his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.”
--2 John 1: 5-6

In February, many of us celebrate a holiday called St. Valentine’s Day. It has a long history and unclear origins, but February 14 has been a celebration of love since before Christ in the Roman world and of a martyr named St. Valentine since 357 AD at least. There was a historical St. Valentine that was martyred by Emperor Claudius in 269 AD for preaching love against warfare and military service and being a source of civil unrest. You see in those days you could only be compelled to serve in the Roman Army if you were single. Valentine, in fact most of the Christian world until the late 400’s AD, preached that it was against Christian living and a sin to be a soldier. Valentine often asked men and women in his parish (yes he was a pastor) to consider their love, live without sexual immorality, and also to escape military service by becoming married. Legends often say that either he left notes to the couples about healthy love or that couples wrote to him asking him to solemnize their marriage, becoming the first Valentine cards, but that is not historically verified.

Most of the commercial world emphasizes the candy, the romantic love, and the sending of notes on February 14. But this saint’s life is not really about romantic love. It is really about living in love in the context of your community according to the Gospel. Most of the stories of St. Valentine contain not only his work with couples and the romantic overtones but also his teachings as pastor for all the church to live in love that are not often emphasized. He stood out in calling on love and gentleness as the way to be decent and great instead of military might and nationalistic blindness. The Romans called their rule the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, because their armies were so dominate and put down all those who would defy or show unrest. Valentine was quoted as preaching the “Pax Romana was not true Peace if it was maintained by force. True Peace comes from Love which is God brought to us here on earth and shown by gentleness, compassion, and giving, not taking.” He gave advice to couples to show love for each other’s families (something that was counter cultural then as the loyalty was only to the husband’s family). He often told his congregation to care for the poor and volunteer together and to show love to all the church and city. He was the first to call on parents to teach love to their children. It is clear that the Bible, especially the New Testament, calls on us who follow Christ to love. In many ways, it is the very core of what it means to live for Christ. This Gospel idea of love is to follow Christ—to be humble, caring, sacrificing of self for others, and kind out of genuine concern for their welfare. It also includes as John said following Christ and His example in all we do.

This St. Valentine’s Day, even as you show love for relatives or significant others remember the teachings of Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and Valentine. Show love not only in romantic ways but in compassion and care, prayer and genuine love for others around you, gathered together to show the Way of Love in the world. Love and grace to you in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Tim Harmon