There may be very few examples more heartwarming than Charlie Brown pining for the attention of the little red-haired girl. There also may be nothing more heartbreaking than Charlie Brown receiving a total of zero valentines from his classmates, and Snoopy dancing with the girl in the end.
Just as Charlie longed for the attention of the little red-haired girl, I am somewhat nostalgic for the stories before my time: those of dignified courtships, fewer divorces, and non-graphic love song lyrics.
Can we find parallels in the popularity of Valentine’s Day today…even if divorces are up, premarital sex is up, and provocative song lyrics are…out of control?
It produced American spending at an estimated 19.7 billion dollars in 2016.[i] The Greeting Card Association claims 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making it the second most popular special day for greeting cards, after Christmas.[ii] (Note to gentlemen readers: time is of the essence!)
These statistics show that true romantic love is alive and well, don’t you think? For the purpose of Valentine’s Day is being celebrated in the spirit of its original intention…well, maybe to some extent.
As many readers are aware, the origin of Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with romantic love. In stark contrast, it revolves around persecution, sacrifice, and martyrdom.
Christians were persecuted under the early Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II forbade the young to marry to ensure the strength of his army. A priest named Valentine continued to secretly perform marriages. He was caught, beaten, stoned, and executed in 269 AD.
The story goes that Valentine had ministered to and educated one of the justice’s daughters. His last words were a note urging her to stay close to God, ending with “from your Valentine.”
So originally the date was marked by the Catholic Church to honor a saint. The middle ages resulted in a change to making it a celebration of romantic love.
The previous statistics show that there is a strong desire to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day, even if it has morphed into something different from originally intended. But what are we celebrating and what should we be celebrating?
To help, we should understand there are three kinds of biblical love.
- Phileo is the love of companions, brotherly love or very close, loyal friendship.
- Storge is strong love in family relationships. While not used in its root form in the Bible, the lack of storge, astorgos, is said to be a sign of the end times, shown in 1 Timothy 3:3.
- Agape is ultimate, supreme, self-sacrificing love, where one is willing to lay down their life for another.
Eros, or sensual love, is another Greek word for love, not found in the Bible. The Bible does suggest in many places, however, that eros is a wonderful benefit of marriage.
Obviously, much of the Valentine’s Day celebration centers around eros. This is a good and healthy tradition for married couples. However, may we never forget, that what should make a Christian stand apart, is their devotion to the God who is Agape.
1 John 4:10 This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
And in turn, He calls Christian men to demonstrate agape love to their wives.
Ephesians 5: 25 Husbands, (agape) your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
This should be manifest in death to self and living for one’s wife in unity, sacrifice, and commitment.
Married couples, celebrate the love you share in its beautiful yet imperfect replica of the Father’s perfect and sacrificial love for us. Enjoy your special day.