February 14 of every year is Valentine’s Day. While there is no public holiday on February 14, it is a popular celebration. Much of the popularity of the day is because it has come to be a celebration of romantic love. Since human nature craves for love, especially romantic love, it only makes sense that such a day will be famous all over the world. From 496AD when Pope Gelasius distinguished February 14 for the celebration of the death of Saint Valentinus, it became defined as a day to celebrate romantic love by the 14th century in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer, where “the tradition of courtly love flourished.”
The form that the celebration of Valentine’s Day takes today traces back to 18th century England where it became an occasion for couples to express their love by presenting flowers, exchanging gifts, sending greeting cards, and offering confectionery. Initially, it was a day marked out in honor of Saint Valentinus, who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. Therefore, the latter appropriation of the day for the celebration of romantic love is not far-fetched.
How should Christians think about Valentine’s Day? What should we do about it?
Christians should care about Valentine
For many believers, writing an article about Valentine’s Day or even thinking about it is offensive. You cannot blame them much, especially if they grew up in cultures where the day has become notorious for all manner of immoralities and indecencies. However, the problem with every distortion is that it makes us forget the ideal, and we can get so caught up with the distortions that we lose the opportunity to affirm the ideal and, consequently, to attack the distortions.However, the problem with every distortion is that it makes us forget the ideal, and we can get so caught up with the distortions that we lose the opportunity to affirm the ideal and, consequently, to attack the distortions. Click To Tweet
If a day is set aside to celebrate romantic love, Christians cannot be indifferent to it because we serve a God who John described as love (1 John 4:8). Love “originates” from God. The beauty of the Christian doctrine of the trinity is that it reminds us that love did not “originate” with the creation of the world. The intra-Trinitarian love that exists among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit goes all the way to eternity past, before the creation of the universe (John 17:24). Love “originates” from God himself. God created man as the pinnacle of his work of creation and in that garden of bliss; he made Eve for Adam and united them together in one flesh, as a pattern and beginning of what it is to come (Genesis 2:18-25). In the Garden of Eden, we see the beginning of romantic love when God brought Eve to Adam, and the latter received the former as the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh. Since God created us in His image, we have the capacity to express love, mirroring the God who created us, the God who is love.
Since love “originated” within the trinity from all of eternity and God is the originator of romantic human love, it will be naïve if we ignore a day set apart to celebrate romantic love and allow unbelievers pervert it as if love is just a human construction. Days like these provide an opportunity for us to remind the world of the God who is love and originator of human love.Since love “originated” within the trinity from all of eternity and God is the originator of romantic human love, it will be naïve if we ignore a day set apart to celebrate romantic love and allow unbelievers pervert it as if love is just a… Click To Tweet
(I am afraid of using the word “originate” here because origin presupposes a beginning. But since the triune God is eternal, the term “originate” cannot be used to describe something that exists within the very nature of God. But for lack of a better word, I put the word in scare quotes to avoid misinterpretation).
For God so Loved the World
The triune God did not leave the world to run by itself after creation. God is active in the universe. He is not an absent God. He manifests his love for humanity in manifold ways. He did not just create the world, he preserves and sustains it (Colossians 1:17; John 5:17). God’s continuous preservation of the universe is the reason why we live, breathe, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). He is the one who gives us “rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
But the highest manifestation of God’s love was when he sent the Son to become a man and live among us so that by his life and death, we can obtain salvation. God so loved the world, and he gave us Christ (John 3:16). There is no greater love than that a man will lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
The love of God in sending Christ to save us is unique. The love that took Jesus to the cross is unfathomable. However, the bible many times over makes that love the standard for us. We are to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16) and love others as God has loved us in Christ (1 John 4:11, John 13:34; 15:12)
Pulling all these together, we know that:
- God is Love
- Love “originates” with God
- Human love is a creation of God and a part of what it means to be created in his image
- The Love of God expressed in the cross is the highest standard of love
For these four reasons, we must affirm that love is a theological term ad Christian must not shy away from theology. We must be ready to speak to the culture about love if we believe in the truth of the four facts above. Valentine’s day provides us an opportunity (hopefully among many opportunities) to speak to the culture about love.
The Love of Beauty and the Beauty of Love
Beauty is a conceptual and philosophical category that is very popular in human culture. We love beauty, we are attracted to beauty, and we learn to evaluate many things in our experiences by aesthetic standards. Beauty is an essential concept in romantic love. Generally, two people develop affections and feelings for themselves because they consider each other as beautiful. The man finds the woman attractive, vice versa. This beauty is not only physical, as many other factors make someone beautiful in the eyes of another.
We see two people in a romantic relationship, and we admire them. To us, it is beautiful and lovely. We love to watch movies that display the beauty of romance. Romance is beautiful; love is beautiful. In a world where there are so many ugly things because of the fall, we love the beauty that we see in romantic love. Also, in modern culture, we have come to value and admire romantic love so much that it is becoming the “holy grail.” When it has to do with love, we believe that all other considerations are less important. “But I love him,” “but he loves me,” “but they love each other,” “love conquers all,” are some of the mantras that have become popular in our culture.
Wisdom from the past
However, the ancients knew that we cannot separate the beautiful, the good, the true, and the real. The good must be true, real, and beautiful. The true must be real, beautiful, and good. The beautiful must be good, true, and real. These categories cannot be set apart from one another. However, this is not just the wisdom of the ancients; it is biblical wisdom. God is good, true, real, and beautiful. He is perfect in all His attributes. Therefore, he is the measure by which we judge all else. God is ultimate goodness (Psalms 34:8), and he tells us what is good. God is the ultimate reality (Genesis 1:1), and he tells us what is real. God is the ultimate truth (John 3:33), and he tells us what is true. God is the ultimate beauty (Psalms 27:4), and he tells us what is beautiful.
It means then that no expression of romantic love that is not real, beautiful, and good is beautiful. If it is not beautiful, we must appall it, reject it, and call people away from it. It is not beautiful if it is not real, true, and good. If you ask who defines these terms, the answer is – who else but the God who made all things.
These Things are not beautiful
If Valentine ’s Day is a celebration of the beauty of love, then it must not celebrate that which is not beautiful (everything that is not real, good, and true). Here are some cultural expressions of romantic love that we cannot celebrate:
- Homosexuality: Marriage is between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:23-25). There is no other type of marriage or romantic love. Therefore, homosexuality is neither real, true, nor good (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Leviticus 18:22). We must not celebrate this kind of love. It is not beautiful. We must also reject transgenderism and “bisexualism” because they are not true, real, good, or beautiful.
- Adultery: Any romantic love outside of the marriage covenant – extramarital affairs is ugly. It is not a true, real, or good romantic love. Therefore, it is not beautiful. (Hebrews 13:4, Proverbs 6:32, Romans 7:2, 3, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10). We must appall and reject it.
- Premarital sex: Sex is a good gift of God for those within the marriage covenant. Any sex that exists outside of the marriage covenant is neither good, true, nor real. (1 Corinthians 7:2, 9, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Hebrews 13:4, Acts 15:19-20)
- Non-covenantal pseudo marriages: Eloping with a man (or woman) and living with a man (or woman) in a romantic relationship outside of a marriage covenant is neither good, beautiful, true, nor real.
- Sexual Immorality: Sexual Immorality is a broad category that includes everything that is a perversion of God’s created order. It includes the marriage/sexual relations between man and animal, promiscuity, sex between a man and his father’s wife or close relations, sex with a divorced man or woman who got divorced on unbiblical grounds (Mathew 19), among others. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 9-11, 6:9-11, 10:8, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 4:19, 5:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Leviticus 18, Mark 10:12)
We reject and appall these distortions exactly because God rejects and appalls them. They are sins. They are ugly, just like every other sin is ugly. There is nothing beautiful in sin, and romantic sins are no exceptions.There is nothing beautiful in sin, and romantic sins are no exceptions. Click To Tweet
Displaying and Celebrating True Beauty
The love of God for humanity is beautiful. The love of God for his elect people is beautiful. The romantic love between a man and a woman in a covenant relationship (i.e marriage) is beautiful. Taking a little bit of detour from romantic relationships, the love of parents for their children and children for their parents is beautiful. The love among neighbors is beautiful. The love among friends is beautiful. The love of Christians for one another is beautiful. The love we have for other human beings is beautiful. The non-romantic but affectionate (prospectively romantic- his or her body does not belong to you outside of a marriage covenant- only when the love is consummated in a marriage) love between a young man and woman in courtship is beautiful. Those kinds of love, we must celebrate.
How do Christians come to the picture?
We are the ones who have enjoyed the greatest manifestation of God’s love for man- the cross. We do not just enjoy this love; God calls us to display it in all our relationships. We are the ones who are to show to the world what true love looks like (non-romantic and romantic). We who have experienced such great love in Christ have the highest duty and the greatest capacity to display the sweetest kind of love in this fallen world.We are the ones who have enjoyed the greatest manifestation of God’s love for man- the cross. We do not just enjoy this love; God calls us to display it in all our relationships. Click To Tweet We are the ones who are to show to the world what true love looks like (non-romantic and romantic) Click To Tweet
Our marriages should be the sweetest expression of genuine love- Christ’s love for the church. Our love for one another should display Christ’s love for us. Similarly, our love for family, friends, strangers, neighbors, and everyone in between should show that we are recipients of such immeasurable grace.Our marriages should be the sweetest expression of genuine love- Christ’s love for the church. Our love for one another should display Christ’s love for us. Click To Tweet Similarly, our love for family, friends, strangers, neighbors, and everyone in between should show that we are recipients of such immeasurable grace. Click To Tweet
It is never enough for us to appall and rebuke that which is not beautiful. We must, by our examples, show the world that there is a better way- the way of the cross. If we display this aright, we will become mediums by which people will come to the very fountain, the highest love, the sweetest love, the perfect love, and the all-satisfying love- Christ himself.It is never enough for us to appall and rebuke that which is not beautiful. We must, by our examples, show the world that there is a better way- the way of the cross. Click To Tweet If we display this aright, we will become mediums by which people will come to the very fountain, the highest love, the sweetest love, the perfect love, and the all-satisfying love- Christ himself. Click To Tweet
How should believers celebrate Valentine’s Day? Reject and appall false, ugly, unreal, and wrong (bad) expressions of love. On the other hand, celebrate and display the love that is true, good, real, and beautiful. In that way, you can draw people to the one who is love.