Dr. Marc Drake, Sr. Pastor, Sun Lakes Baptist Church
Sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to certain aspects of Christian history. Some accounts of early heroes and martyrs of the faith, handed down orally, have become embellished and romanticized. Such is the story of St. Valentine – a man who was a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. According to tradition, Valentine was imprisoned and beaten and on February 14, about 270 AD, he was beheaded.
Doesn’t sound too romantic, does it? Probably not the best thing to think about when going on Roses Only for Valentine’s day delivery, but alas. So how did his death result in a day for lovers, flowers, candy, and little poems that begin “Roses are red…?” Well, it seems that Emperor Claudius wanted to more easily recruit soldiers for his army and in an effort to do that he tried to weaken family ties by forbidding marriage. According to certain stories handed down, Valentine ignored the emperor’s order and secretly married young couples in the underground church. When these activities were discovered, he was arrested.
It also seems that Valentine had a romantic interest of his own. While in prison he became friends with the daughter of his jailer. Being deprived of books, he entertained himself by cutting out paper shapes and writing notes to her. His last note arrived on the morning of his death and ended with the words, “Your Valentine.”
In 496 AD, February 14 was named in his honor. Eventually, people began sending notes to one another and sharing expressions of affection. Now, it’s certainly possible that many actual facts lie behind the stories of St. Valentine. Yes, it’s likely that he conducted underground weddings and sent notes to the jailer’s daughter. He might have even signed them “Your Valentine.” And he probably died for his faith in Jesus Christ. But it can be said he almost certainly never wrote, “Roses are red. Violets are blue….”
We may not know all the facts about St. Valentine and his story. But God has made sure we have the facts concerning the greatest of all stories, and that’s the gospel message as recorded in the Bible. Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” What immeasurable, indescribable love! While we were without hope in this world, God became a man in the person of His Son in order to die for us and then rise from the dead.
Enjoy Valentine’s Day. But remember the greatest of all love stories – the love of God Himself for the whole world (John 3:16).