THE STORY OF VALENTINE’S DAY
By Richard (Dick) Innes
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”1
In ancient Rome, the 14th of February was a pagan holiday in honor of Juno, the goddess of women and marriage and the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses.
Later, however, it became a Christian holiday named after a Christian priest. An Internet report says that, “According to church tradition St. Valentine was a priest near Rome about the year 270 A.D. At that time the Roman Emperor was imprisoning Christians for not worshipping the Roman gods. During this persecution Valentine was arrested. Some say he was arrested because he was performing Christian marriages, but others say it was for helping Christians escape prison.
“During the trial they asked Valentine what he thought of the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury. Of course Valentine said they were false gods and that the God that Jesus called Father was the only true God. So the Romans threw him in prison for insulting the gods.
“While in prison Valentine continued to minister. He witnessed to the guards. One of the guards was a good man who had adopted a blind girl. He asked Valentine if his God could help his daughter. Valentine prayed and the girl was given her sight. The guard and his whole family, 46 people, believed in Jesus and were baptized. When the emperor heard about this, he was furious that Valentine was still making converts even in prison, so he had Valentine clubbed and beheaded.
“Valentine knew that he might get caught in his Christian activities. He knew that if he told the court the truth about the Roman gods that he would be thrown in prison. And he knew that if he continued to witness to Christ in the prison, he would make his captors angry. But he continued because he loved the Lord and his fellow humans. He was willing to risk his life to free the prisoners and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who needed to hear it.” (Source unknown.)
According to Bob McIlhenny, high school teacher, Valentine and the prisoner’s daughter that had been blind developed a special friendship, and, before he was executed, Valentine wrote her a note of encouragement and signed it “Your Valentine.” From this sad situation, we now celebrate Valentine’s Day as a special day for expressing love and friendship.
As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This is what Valentine did. He loved and cared enough for his friends and loved ones (including his jailors) to introduce them to Jesus at the risk of his life, which he gave.
And this is what God did for us. While we were still sinners Jesus died for us. So, on this Valentine’s Day, let us be quick to express our love, not only to our loved ones and friends but also especially to the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life so that we would be able to have our sins forgiven and live with God forever in heaven.
“Dear God, thank You that You so loved the world that You gave Your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. And Lord Jesus, I thank You from the bottom of my heart for loving me enough to die on the cross in my place to pay the just penalty for all my sins. Because You died for me so I could live forever, help me to live always in all ways for You. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’s name. Amen.”
1. Jesus, John 15:12-13 (NIV).