God and Valentine
In spite of the unclear origin of Valentine’s day, there are pointers that place its ancestry in Rome. Like many ancient stories, tradition suggests various stories regarding the personage in focus. Valentine was a Christian martyr, killed on February 14, 496 under the decree of Claudius II, then Emperor of Rome amidst an intense persecution of Christians. During this period, Claudius had offered Valentine asylum under the condition that he converted to paganism. Valentine not only refused but also attempted to convert the Emperor to Christianity, much to Claudius’ fury. While in jail and awaiting execution, Valentine is said to have performed a healing miracle for the jailer’s blind daughter, Julia. Prior to his execution, it is also said that he wrote her a letter, signed “Your Valentine.”
This is just one of the various stories that surround the Valentine celebration. Regardless of which is true, there is an overly clear evidence and agreement that Valentine was indeed a man who exhibited true and active love despite his dire estate. This is however, quite opposite to our modern celebration. Quoting Ravi Zacharias, “No word has been more used and abused than the word, LOVE.” We do not just ‘love’ people, we also love chocolate. But as Dallas Willard humorously but strikingly points out, “You do not love chocolate, you want to eat it.” Indeed, when we talk about loving people, it seems truer nowadays to be that we are really saying we want to consume them. Man’s love is rather akin to a desire of using people for personal gratification, rather than truly loving them as persons. Sadly, people are rather consumed than loved on Valentine.
The Bible states that, “God is love”, a truth rich with meaning. The original Greek used to connote this in 1 John 4, is the word agape, signifying an unconditional love. The British novelist C. S. Lewis describes masterfully the boundless love of God in Mere Christianity. He says, “the great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifferences, and therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of these sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.” Man’s love for his neighbour is regularly flustered by the vicissitudes of life. As opposed to these skewed forms of love we see on daily basis, His never ends and unflustered by our response to Him.
God does not only give love to His creation, He is the source of it. As the source, it is because of His love that we are able to love. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” In this regard, when Jesus was asked about the greatest of the commandments, He answered, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength” and secondly, “love your neighbour as yourself”(Luke 10:27). You cannot love a fellow creature fully, till you love God, the source and giver of it all. Finally, we see the full expression of God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. Valentine was propelled by this to live selflessly for others.
The fact of love (unconditional), the source of love (eternal), and the act of love (sacrificial) are expressed in God’s love for us. May this Valentine be a reminder of these truths and drive us to be expressers of such.
Manuel Chukwudi is the content manager at Naija Gospel Radio.