February 14 used to be called “St. Valentine’s Day” by everyone! It was not seen as an especially religious designation – even though “spiritual” icons like pictures of angels and hearts and other heavenly representations were and are frequently used on greeting cards and decorations for that treasured day. In addition, the designation of this special day by the name of a saint alluded to some to some Godly link. Nevertheless, the day has been a successful target of the current American radical secularization. And the mere word “Valentine” has become the designation for the kind of greeting card one sends to dear ones who are loved – and no longer the name of a heroic saint, pastor, and martyr from the 3rd century.
Have you noticed that the enduring “St.” of St. Valentine’s Day has now disappeared almost without notice? It is missing even in present references to this very special day in announcements at churches and in Christian organizations. For shame!
This notable brother in Jesus was born “Valentinus,” a common masculine Roman name meaning “healthy and strong.” When he became a gospel minister in Rome, he said and did a number of things that deeply irritated the pagan Roman authorities. For example, at great risk to himself, Valentine ministered to Christian brothers and sisters whom the rabidly anti-Christian authorities were persecuting severely. He openly identified with those fellow-believers who were objects of hateful violence – through both his caring and praying for them publically.
Pastor Valentine also stirred the ire of pagan authorities by teaching passionate faithful love in marriage, while also warning many people of the degrading sexual perversions of both the Roman leaders and many other people of his time. This pastor was a strong witness for the Gospel and for healthy, faithful, erotic behavior within Godly marital commitments – thereby honoring the LORD God, the inventor of sexual pleasure and passion. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the gracious creator and savior for all women and men. After all, “The passionate drive of love is a pure fire of the LORD” (Song of Songs 8:6) [www.songofsongs.info].
For this intensely faithful, cogent Biblical teaching, Valentine of Rome was martyred on February 14, 269 – exactly 1750 years ago! Surely this year we should honor Pastor St. Valentine. Especially with Pastor Valentine’s ministries so intensely relevant for 2019, too:
- Praying for and caring for persecuted people.
- Teaching, encouraging, and exemplifying faithful, passionate romantic love.
By the way, all the while, there was another Pastor Valentine, who was ministering in Terni, 65 miles north of Rome, teaching the same relevant Biblical truths – supporting the persecuted sisters and brothers and nurturing passionate faithfulness in romantic and marital love. He met the same fate, too, being martyred by the Roman authorities in 271. So, there are at least two venerable Pastor St. Valentines from the 3rd century worth celebrating – fully meriting our again honoring their worthy examples and excellent teachings. Happy Pastor St. Valentine’s Day!
Paul de Vries, pauldevries.com, is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, author, and speaker. Dr. de Vries is a specialist in Biblical hermeneutics and ethics, and he is a life-long advocate for Biblical Activism.