Valentine’s Day Origin

I always assumed that Valentine’s Day was literally started by Hallmark cards, Hershey’s, FTD Flowers, or some other business that needed to boost its bottom line to sell more product. Hey, here’s an idea, let’s create a holiday where everyone is obligated to buy cards, candy and flowers once a year.

There are even entire industries, with their own infomercials that exist solely surrounding Valentine’s Day. My favorite being the Big Hunk of Love at Vermont Teddy Bear. Every year I threaten Melinda that I made the call, and one is on the way. I mean really, who doesn’t dream of having a six foot tall bear hanging around the house.

But it turns out I was wrong. Valentine’s Day actually has a uniquely Christian origin. With that said, my guess is that you have no idea what part of Christian history it actually links to. From a commentary, written by Chuck Colson way back in 1999, here’s the story.

Early church records are sketchy, but it’s believed several men named Valentine were martyred in the third century A.D. This was during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, a ruler known for his brutal persecution of Christians.

One of these Valentines was a priest who secretly married couples against the wishes of Claudius, who believed that unmarried men made better soldiers. Two other Valentines—a priest and a bishop—were beheaded by Claudius late in the third century.

Historians are not certain which Valentine it was we celebrate on February 14. But they are certain why the church chose that day. You see, in ancient Rome, February 14 was the eve of a pagan festival called Lupercalia. During this festival, the Romans worshiped Februa, a goddess of marriage, childbirth, and sexuality.

Brian Bates, a professor at the University of Sussex, is an expert on how we celebrate holidays. Bates writes that during Lupercalia, “Young men and women drew lots for sexual partners in preparation for a day of sanctioned license the following day.”

As Christianity spread throughout the ancient world, the church began replacing pagan festivals with holy days. In an effort to control the lewder aspects of the Lupercalian festival, the church fathers replaced this pagan holiday with the feast of Saint Valentine, in honor of one of the martyred Christians. Instead of drawing the names of sexual partners out of a box, young men were encouraged to pick the names of saints—and then spend the following year emulating the saint whose name they drew.

So how about that? Valentine’s Day actually links back to the early Christian Saints, and how their martyrdom dramatically illustrates their love of God. Somehow, a Hershey’s Kiss, and a big Teddy Bear no longer seems appropriate.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:7, 9

Logic or Imagination

Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

The Apostle John begins his gospel by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people… The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 14).

The “Word” John speaks of here is Jesus Christ. The Greek word for that word “Word”, is Logos. It’s the same word from which we get the word logic. John is telling us that Jesus is God! Jesus created this universe and sustains its existence. Therefore, Jesus is all that makes logical sense about this world and our life in it. When it comes to making sense out of this life, you have a choice, logic or imagination.

To deny that God exists, or to live your life without acknowledging His existence or His authority over your life, is to commit Spiritual suicide. When your life ends on this earth, it’s not that God then sends you to hell; you had already chosen hell over heaven. In fact, if God were to put you in heaven—in spite of your choice—He would cease to be loving or just. Why? Because you, acting on the free will God gave you, chose to build your entire life around yourself and others like you. You put yourself in charge and voted God off the island. Think about it. You would be absolutely miserable in heaven. It’s full of all those weak minded simpletons who had to constantly lean on their “God-crutch” because they couldn’t make it on their own.

Some time ago, billionaire media mogul Ted Turner made a well-publicized comment about Christianity, calling it a “religion for losers.” Though meant to be offensive to Christians, his statement actually contains a profound truth. True Christians are those who know they need help, big-time. What I appreciate about Ted Turner (and I’m serious), is that he’s at least being intellectually and emotionally honest concerning his opinion of Christianity, and what he imagines to be true about this life and the next.

Satan

Dualism, as a philosophy and a religion, has hovered over Christianity from the beginning. Dualism teaches that the universe is the staging area, the combat zone, for two equal and opposite beings who struggle with each other eternally.

Though Satan is a dangerous foe, many make the mistake of attributing to him power that he does not possess. Satan is not omnipotent or omnipresent. Nor does he have the power to actually perform miracles, though he can counterfeit them.

The Bible teaches that Satan is a finite spiritual being. In short, he is a created creature. He’s more powerful that we are, but he is in no way as powerful as Almighty God.

There are two primary myths about Satan that he continually props up. He loves spreading disinformation about himself. His marketing team has done a masterful job of convincing people that only one or the other of these false narratives is true.

Myth one, is that Satan is a ridiculous myth. As a mythical figure, he can be lots of fun and funny Disney type characters like a ghost or goblin, or a harmless foe who wears red flannel underwear, has horns and a long tail. Myth two, is Dualism, the belief that Satan is every bit as powerful as God and is an equal force on equal footing.

What I find interesting is that Hollywood, those producing TV programs and movies, actually seem to totally buy into either one or the other of these positions. Think about the TV shows or movies that you’ve seen that includes Satan as a part of the cast. He’s either depicted as a harmless foolish and funny character that everyone with a sane mind knows does not really exist. Or he’s depicted as an evil and all powerful force that is almost impossible to stop.

Christians who have studied God’s Word, however, know better. We are fully aware that Satan is real, and we know that if we’re not paying attention he can reap havoc in our lives. That’s why Peter warns us to be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

But, we also know that as a created creature, Satan is totally subject to God, and not a match for God’s sovereignty and power. For greater is he that is in us, than he who is in this world!

“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:2

Retreat or Engage

Retreat or Engage

We’re living at a time when with increasing measure, as Christians, we are going to have to decide to do one of the following; retreat or engage. I know plenty of sincere and committed Christians who don’t want to pick a culture war with anyone. They’re not looking to rumble over religion. But they also don’t want to potentially face losing their job over refusing to attend the office party thrown for their coworker, to celebrate his recent marriage to his same-sex partner.

As Denny Burk said, in his article titled What the Future Holds, Christians are beginning to realize that their place in American life is now being adjudicated in the court of public opinion. And it is not at all clear whether this will end well for the Christian church.

Some Christians believe that we should retreat and disengagement from the culture. Others say that we need to engage the culture war and fight for what’s right, based on what the Bible teaches.

So which is it, fight or flight, retreat or engage?

Let’s look the words of Jesus’ prayer just before He was handed over to be crucified. His prayer focused not only on his disciples, but also on all those who would come to saving faith through His death and resurrection. So the beauty of this prayer is that Jesus was praying for us.

Jesus prayed, I don’t ask that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. Score one for engage.

Jesus is quick to clarify that we are not OF the world. World in this case is not referring to planet earth, but a term describing humanity in its fallen state and rebellion against God. Jesus then gives the secret to making our engagement with the world successful, and it is this; God’s sanctifying truth. He says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

And there you have it. Our personal sanctification, that is, the power of God’s Holy Spirit reshaping our will to His, and conforming us to the image of Christ, even as we live in an amoral and increasingly Godless culture, will ultimately win the day. People will not be able to escape the fact that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. But we must be friends with unsaved people in order for them experience the difference in our lives. Otherwise, aren’t we just talking to ourselves?

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6