Today happens to be the Day of Love here in Peru, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day in other countries. I would like to consider the origins of the holiday, what the special day means now, and what God might think of it.
What is fascinating about the Day of Love is that its origins are almost entirely legend. It is true that there were various men named Valentine back around the third century. Some stories indicate that some of these men were Christians who were martyred for their faith. We do know that the Catholic church accepted Valentine as a saint and established a day in the Catholic calendar in his honor.
However, what is interesting is that the stories of Valentine and the events that led to the current Day of Love were not written until many hundreds of years after his death. These are known by historians as embellishments. Writers created new and fanciful events to go along with the facts and that resulted in a more romantic version.
This was a slow process, but it has increased speed with each decade over the past century or so. More and more writers added their versions to the story of Valentine’s Day, making it more and more romanticized. It seems very few people bothered to verify if the stories were true. Instead, they embraced the fun and romantic parts of the stories and adapted them to their cultures.
But with time, historians began pushing back at the claims related to Valentine. Eventually, this led the Catholic church to recognize that there was no veracity to the story of Valentine, so they removed the Day of Love from the Catholic calendar in the year 1969. It is now recognized only as a commercial holiday.
Despite the official stance of the Catholic church, many people continue to spread the story of Valentine and the Day of Love as if it were fact. It changes slightly with the passing of time, but it is becoming increasing popular around the world. From what historians have found, what pushed it to grow more quickly was its acceptance in the United States in the early twentieth century.
A lady in the States received a Valentine card from a business contact in Europe. She thought it was very cute and would sell in the States, so the next year she ordered supplies from Europe and began making her own Valentine cards to sell. From there, the commercial growth of the Day of Love has grown exponentially. In fact, most years the amount spent per person on Valentine’s merchandise grows. Some market indexes reported that in 2020, the average amount spent was around $200 or S/700.
Though it is growing in popularity, there are still countries that ban things related to the holiday. Muslim and Hindu countries most notably ban the buying and selling of Valentine products and the public displays of affection between unmarried people. They say it is against their religion to follow the Western looseness and promiscuity they see in the States and Europe. It is interesting then that countries where Christianity is more prevalent seem to tolerate the holiday more.
So, is the Day of Love good or bad? As with many things in life, it may not be that black and white. We can readily agree that love is a good thing. In fact, the Bible says that God Himself is love, and believers are known as His children by their love for Him and for others. However, I think we can be quick to say that the love of God and the love of Valentine’s Day are not the same.
Though the specific applications vary from country to country, the main thrust of the Day of Love has to do with gifts and acts of love between unmarried people, often between boyfriends and girlfriends. In the modern world culture, Valentine’s Day is also extremely popular among homosexuals, further distancing it from its supposed, but false, start in the church.
While at first glance, the idea of love may seem innocent and good, there are some distinct dangers with the Day of Love. The holiday encourages a lowering of reserve between unmarried people. With inhibitions lowered and romance heightened, many couples find themselves giving in to their physical passions and disobeying God’s commands for purity and discretion.
The focus of the day is on romantic things and romantic acts. This puts a heavy value on feelings, such as falling in love and destiny between lovers. Some people talk about being struck with Cupid’s arrow and following their hearts. This is directly opposite to the reality of love and commitment needed in enduring relationships. We’ll find some teaching on this in the Bible a little later.
A danger of this holiday is the sort of love portrayed by books and television and the internet. The sort of romance that sells is one that moves the emotions and the passions. But it is not based in reality, and so it alters the expectations in relationships into something that is not sustainable or healthy. Once a person finds themselves in a relationship that isn’t as magical as the world told them it should be, they will abandon it in search of what they call true love. If they aren’t given roses and chocolates and all the rest on a regular basis, they go looking elsewhere for love.
Love as commanded by God is so much more than a feeling or a box of chocolates. Emotions come and go. They are fleeting and not to be depended on. God’s love is not governed by feeling but by careful commitment. True love is a choice. God desires that one man and one woman carefully count the costs before choosing to commit themselves to a lifetime of marriage from which there is no looking back.
This is a relationship of mutual respect and service. It is a lifestyle of kindness and courtesy where we put each other first and support one another. The marriage relationship provides companionship and friendship for the couple, but it goes far beyond that, enabling the individuals to become more effective together than apart. And what is the purpose for which they are more effective? That is to glorify and serve God.
A relationship of love in the Lord is characterized by its empowering effect of the couple to better love God first, each other second, and those around them by extension. The daily commitment of love to each other is followed by the daily commitment of love to God. And from that union of love, even more love is multiplied and shared with the world. That’s God’s desire for love.
We will now look at some specific principles from the Bible. We want to be careful to follow God’s standard for love and life rather than blindly following the world’s shallow and dangerous counterfeit.
Read Song of Solomon 8:6, 7.
The Song of Solomon is a book of love letters or exchanges between King Solomon and his bride. It is a picture of the sort of single focus our love is to have. In these verses, we see the offer of complete commitment of love as a seal upon the heart that will not allow others to enter. Love between a man and a woman is a beautiful thing that God designed for us to enjoy, but as with all of God’s beauty, the devil will work to twist and defile it.
Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
This passage is not talking directly about marriage or the commitment of love, but the principle has often been applied. We can be stronger together. But take special notice of the cord with three threads: It is much stronger than the threads alone. The truth we can take from this is that if a man and woman will braid themselves together around God as their central cord, they will be incredibly strong.
Read Proverbs 31:10-12.
The value of a virtuous wife is incomparable. It is far above any valuable jewel or other riches. I can say that this is certainly true of my dear wife. She has been a continual help to me for over twelve years. God created Eve to be a help to Adam, and her daughters were to follow in that design. My wife is a perfect helper for me, helping me to become more like the Lord Jesus each day. That is a great and priceless treasure and one that I would encourage any man to search for.
Read Matthew 5:27-30.
God is concerned with the heart. We see here in Jesus’ sermon how seriously He views the sort of looseness many live with daily. What the devil calls love and romance and passion, God calls lust and disobedience and sin. Job said thousands of years ago that he made a covenant with his eyes not to look on a woman. Paul warned believers that it is not proper for a man to touch a woman.
This is of course outside of the beautiful gift of marriage. In the Book of Hebrews, it says that marriage is honorable, and the marriage bed is pure, but all else will be judged. Thus, we want to be very careful not be caught up with the frivolous way the world handles love in comparison to the noble standard God has for us.
Read Ephesians 5:22-24.
This teaching is repeated in multiple places in the Bible. The idea of the man being the head and leader with the woman being the helper and follower is becoming more and more unpopular as time goes on. But God’s way is always best. My wife says that those women who rebel against this command do not realize what safety and joy they are refusing by going against God. This is the sort of deep love that God is desiring.
Read Ephesians 5:25-33.
Both the man and the woman are responsible before God, but God has required more of the man. Though men are called to lead, they are not given reign to rule as a despot over their wives. This is a false impression the devil has planted in the minds of many. Rather, the man is called to love his wife with the sort of sacrifice and service Jesus had for the church.
This is quite different from the fickle, romantic love that is encouraged with Valentine’s Day around the world. God is calling us to a deep and abiding love that does not pursue our own desires but serves the other.
Read Titus 2:1-8.
Here is another increasingly unpopular passage. Here we first see that men are called to a high character that is moderate, respectable, sensible, with integrity and love and endurance. That is a lot to keep, but imagine what love such a man would show his beloved!
The woman is called to similar things with the addition of submitting to her husband and keeping the home. That does not at all fit with the modern picture of an empowered woman who is pursuing her own career, but I can guarantee you that God does not make mistakes. His way is best. It brings joy and peace to us and to others, but more importantly, it brings glory to Him.
Because God is love and His whole purpose and vocation for His people revolves around love, you will find many more passages that highlight what sort of love God expects of us. Looking at the truth of God’s Word, we should be very cautious of the world’s cheap version of love and avoid falling into the trap of the Day of Love.
Instead, I encourage you married couples to recognize that every day God is calling you to a day of love, first to Him, then to your spouse. Just as we are to keep our eyes only for God and off the world, so our love for our spouse is to be singularly and purely focused.
And to those of you not who are not married, do not allow the devil to trick you into giving your heart away on Valentine’s Day. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life, Proverbs chapter 4 says. If God opens the doors to marriage, put your hand in His and walk His path to receive that blessing. But if not, live fully in the blessing of obedience where you are called today.
To close, I want to read over the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. Consider these words carefully and work diligently to live them out each and every day.
Read 1 Corinthians 13.