Planning on sending a card this Valentine’s Day? Hoping to get one back? Valentine’s Day has become a big commercial celebration of love and relationships, but the stories surrounding the original Saint Valentine, who has the honour of having February 14th named after him, are pretty far from love-hearts, chocolates and soppy messages.
What we know about Saint Valentine, who lived in the third century, is pretty limited, but February 14th commemorates his martyrdom. He was, apparently, beheaded. Some say he was killed because he was healing the sick in the name of Jesus. His ministry would have been controversial in a Roman world of multiple gods that hadn’t yet embraced Christianity. According to the story, he even prayed for the healing of the daughter of the guard who was keeping him in his cell – she was healed!
Others say he was arrested and killed for trying to convert the Emperor, whilst other stories say he was imprisoned for ignoring a ban on Christian marriage – instead he secretly performed weddings for Christian couples.
The stories all point to one thing. Valentine was a victim of persecution. He believed in Jesus, and it seems in living out his faith he became a target for those with different religious views. The ruling Roman theology included multiple gods and goddesses and the idea that there is just one God (and that He became a man, lived, died and came back to life) would not just be shocking or blasphemous, but dangerous too.
Religion was, and is, big business. Back then, as today, religious ideas can be used to give people power, influence, income and more. Preaching something different to the status quo is a dangerous act – especially when Jesus is the focus. His teaching is revolutionary, even today. And when taken seriously, his words and presence with us can change the world.
Like then, today many Christians and Christian leaders are facing intimidation, arrest, violence, torture and death because of their love of Jesus. They are the real, modern day Saint Valentines, living out a message of undying, true love with their lives. They really do know that love costs. So, today, remember them (as well as the person you have a crush on). Try praying for those in our church family that…
1. Are in prison, facing long or unknown sentences because of their faith. Dozens of Christians were arrested in Iran last year, many were church leaders.
2. Are facing exclusion and violence from their loved ones because of their choice to follow Jesus. Many are excluded, kicked out and threatened by family because of the shame of changing religion. Read Abdu’s story for an example…
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.