To be young, wealthy, and in love all in the third century. And to be a Christian. Such was young Valentinus. He would consummate his love for Julia by taking her as his bride. Soon, he would be wed.
But his pleasurable, orderly world came crashing down around him when the Roman emperor declared all Christians illegal citizens and guilty of treason. Claudius II ordered all Romans to worship 12 gods, and he made it a crime, punishable by death, even to associate with Christians.
A professed Christian could be spared execution if he or she were willing to confess, “Caesar is lord!” But there was no way Valentinus was going to deny his Christ.
He steadfastly declared, “Jesus is Lord!” For that, he was arrested and imprisoned.
In jail, awaiting execution, he wrote love letters to his girlfriend; beautiful, passionate letters assuring her of his great love for her. He signed them, “From your Valentine.”
But theirs would be a love not lived out; arms never entwined in the embrace of husband and wife. On Feb. 14, 269, young Valentinus was put to death, martyred for Jesus Christ.
Since then, Christians have celebrated his fidelity to his Lord and romantic love on the 14th of February by sending our own love letters and cards to special people.
As we communicate our love this week, let us resolve anew to live for Christ unashamedly and to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength.
Let us recall that still in our loves, as with young Valentinus, there will be unfairness, unfulfilled longings, loneliness, persecution, and difficulties. Yes, but faith, hope and love endure. And the greatest of these is love for love is more powerful than a tyrant’s sword, more lasting than the centuries.
Love is the hallmark of all true believers here on earth. In Christ, in heaven, we will love God and one another for all eternity.
Let love flow freely at all times, but especially on Valentine’s Day.