St. Valentine – Marriage & Mission
Valentine’s Day is a time when couples gaze inward, reflecting upon and celebrating their romantic relationships. All of us are familiar with what the day has become… The flowers, chocolates, and cards are enough to make one want to throw up (Well OK – not my wife, she loves it). However, most folks aren’t as familiar with the man whose life inspired the holiday.
Saint Valentine was an Italian priest in the 3rd century who encouraged couples to look outward to how their marriages could contribute to the world. He believed that people living in a relationship of real unity, real love, and willing self-sacrifice, allows others to see the Kingdom of God come. He believed that there are few better places than marriage to invite people in to see the vision of Jesus at work and to see how His Kingdom operates.
While most 20th century historians agree that many of the details surrounding the origin of Valentine’s Day belong to the realm of myth, the 5th century work, Passio Marii et Marthae details how Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed weddings to try to prevent his soldiers from becoming distracted from the hard work of maintaining the vast empire. Apparently, the feeling was that the mission and values of marriage run contrary to those of empire and global domination – who would have guessed? In spite of this decree, Valentine believed so passionately in the ability of marriages to serve God and others that he carried on marrying people. When Claudius heard of this defiance, he sent Valentine off to prison where although he could no longer perform weddings, he continued to witness to people about the power of God’s love. Valentine was eventually killed for the risks he took in standing up for his convictions. The day of his martyrdom – February 14th – later became a day in the ancient church calendar to remember Valentine’s faithful life.
Celebrating romance in your marriage on Valentine’s Day can be great, but a better idea may be to mark Valentine’s Day as a time to seek God’s guidance in your marriage and ask how God might use your relationship to expand the kingdom of God. A marriage driven by mission allows your marriage to become a place where God can speak into the world and touch everyone who comes into contact with either of you. The small, daily decisions that are made in marriages have something to say about how we to relate to God and each other; and give a beautiful example to others about the true meaning of love. Are you and your better half being intentional about communicating the message of the Gospel to others through your marriage? For this to happen, it helps to keep in mind that marriage is meant to be an illustration of the deepest love of all: Jesus’ love for the whole world (John3:16).
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is probably the most widely used passage recited at weddings. Over the years I’ve heard this verse so many times, at so many weddings; I have to admit I roll my eyes now, just a little, whenever it’s used in that context. But when we demonstrate this kind of love in our marriage – patience, kindness, rejoicing in truth, slow to anger, always protective, trusting, hopeful and persevering – we illustrate to others God’s amazing love for us, and for all creation.
This Valentine’s Day, by all means, enjoy romance with your spouse – but don’t stop there. Look beyond the pretty flowers, flickering candles, and candy hearts of romance to see the faces of those around you who need to know the love of God in their lives.