THE HISTORY OF
It’s Valentines Day and that reminds us of love, and girlfriends, and boyfriends, and, oh yea, chocolate! Oh, and maybe you’ll have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince or princess. We have flowers, and images of cupids flying around shooting their arrows of love into unsuspecting hearts. Cupid is actually a character from pagan mythology -- one of the ancient gods. And we get all those sweet little names for each other like Honey and Pumpkin. It reminds me of the guy who was invited for dinner at a friend’s house. Every time the host needed something, he preceded his request to his wife by calling her: “My Love,” “Darling,” “Sweetheart,” and so forth.
His friend looked at him and said, “That’s really nice after all these years you’ve been married to keep saying those little pet names.”
“Well,” said the guy, “To be honest, I’ve forgotten her name.” So be careful if your husband calls you too many pet names!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
But did you know that what we call Valentine’s Day was at one time was called the Feast of St. Valentine? It was a religious holiday. It is the day we remember the life and death of a Christian martyr. That’s why the color red is associated with Valentines Day -- to remind us of the martrydom of St. Valentine even if we no longer celebrate his feast day.
Valentine was a priest who lived near Rome in the year 270 AD. At that time, the Roman Emperor was imprisoning Christians for not worshiping the Roman gods and making sacrifices to them. During that time, Fr. Valentine was arrested. Some people say he was arrested because he was performing Christian marriages, but other people say he was arrested for helping Christians escape prison. Maybe he was arrested for both reasons.
During his trial, he was asked what he thought of the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury. Of course, Fr. Valentine said they were false gods and the God that Jesus called Father was the only true God. So the Romans threw him in prison for insulting their gods.
While he was in prison, Fr. Valentine continued to minister. He ministered to the guards who kept him behind bars. One of the guards was a good man and who he had adopted a blind girl. He asked Fr. Valentine if his God could help his daughter to see again. So Fr. Valentine prayed over his daughter and her sight came back.
After Fr. Valentine cured the girl, the guard and his whole family, 46 people, we converted to Christianity and were baptized. Because these people had come to know Jesus, Fr. Valentine praised God right there in his prison cell. Well, when the emperor heard about that, he was furious that Fr. Valentine was still making converts even while he was in prison. So, Emperor Claudius II ordered Fr. Valentine to be put to death.
On the night before he was executed, Fr. Valentine sent a note to the girl whose sight was restored. He loved her and wanted her to have a wonderful life. He signed his note: “From your Valentine.” That’s where we get the tradition of sending notes “from your Valentine.” Fr. Valentine was beheaded on February 14.
St. Valentine knew that he would get caught doing Christian activities. He knew that if he told the court the truth about the Roman gods that he would be thrown in prison. And he knew that if he continued to tell people about Christ in the prison, he would make his captors angry. He also knew when he healed the little girl, he would seal his fate. But because he loved God and he loved other people, he was willing to risk his life to free the prisoners and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all those who needed to hear it.
In John 15:13, the Bible says: “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” God showed this love by coming to us as Christ and dying for us. And St. Valentine showed that same love when he died for his friends. That is the kind of love that Valentine’s Day is really all about.
You see, we only have one word for “love”. But the New Testament of the Bible is written in Greek. Greek has four different words for love, because there were four kinds of love. And when Jesus spoke, he did not only use one word.
First there was the word eros, which means that romantic love you see in the movies. You know, that Romeo and Juliet kind of love. The second word was stergia, which meant the love that family members have for each other. The third love was philia, which was used to describe the warmed and trust that real friends have for each other.
But there was a fourth love, agape, which was a heroic kind of love. It was an unconquerable love, and it means that no matter what a person might do to you, you would continue to love that person. It means that you will not become bitter or vindictive toward another person, even though you might have every reason in the world to feel bitterness toward that person. This is the kind of love you should have for other people -- people who are not necessarily your spouse, your family, or your friends. Just acquaintances, or even enemies.
You see, when you and I use the word “love”, we usually mean fond affection, and a warm feeling for someone. But that is not necessarily what agape means. You remember when Jesus tells us to “love our enemies.” He did not use the word eros, or stergia, or philia. He used the word agape. You see, because we don’t understand the word Jesus was saying, we have trouble with the commandment to love our enemies. But Jesus did not expect us to love with the love that binds a husband and wife, nor the love that binds a mother and child. He did not ask us to love with the love that describes warmth and trust between friends, and he did not ask us to love with the love that refers to romance.
Jesus wanted us to love with agape. It means you always care about what happens to other people. You always want the best for them, even if you don’t like them. It means that as a Christian, we will not stoop to hatred. We will not seek revenge; and if the opportunity arises, we will do my best to help anyone else who needs our help, and that even includes even our enemies. If everyone loved everyone with agape, we’d live in a much nicer world.
The important thing to remember is that sometimes there are people in this world who are not appropriate in our lives. They are not live-giving, but instead, life-draining. We should not think that we have to have relationships with everyone. Jesus does not ask us to have philia with everyone – to be friends or have warm feelings. Some people are simply awful people. Jesus is not asking us to have relationships with people are not appropriate in our lives. What he does ask is for us to have agape. That’s a lot easier to do. Nobody says you gotta be friends. Sometimes it would be a greater sin to yourself to surround yourself with people who suck the life out of you. So don’t get stuck in the “love thy enemies” thing. Agape your enemies. For some people, because they cannot philia their enemies, they give up. Please, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Following Jesus’ commandment is really not as hard as you think.
With Valentine’s Day coming, and people talk about “love,” let’s remember that Jesus wants us to love one another -- with an agape love. God loved us with an unconditional love -- so much that he sent Jesus into the world. Jesus is God’s valentine to each of us. Valentine’s Day is a day for love -- all kinds of love. Eros, or romantic love, stergia or family love, philia or friendship love, and most of all, agape, unselfish heroic love for all people.
Questions concerning love and wisdom were posed to a group of children, ages five to ten:
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?
"On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date." -- Mike, 10
"Many daters just eat pork chops and french fries and talk about love." --Craig, 9
"Lovers will just be staring at each other and their food will get cold. Other people care more about the food." -- Brad, 8
WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?
"You should never kiss a girl unless you have enough bucks to buy her a big ring and her own VCR, 'cause she'll want to have videos of the wedding." -- Jim, 10
THE GREAT DEBATE: IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED
"It's better for girls to be single, but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them." -- Lynette, 9
"It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I'm just a kid. I don't need that kind of trouble." -- Kenny, 7
CONCERNING WHY LOVE HAPPENS BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE
"No one is sure why it happens, but I heard it has something to do with how you smell. That's why perfume and deodorant are so popular." -- Jan, 9
"I think you're supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn't supposed to be so painful." -- Harlen, 8
ON WHAT FALLING IN LOVE IS LIKE
"If falling in love is anything like learning to spell, I don't want to do it. It takes too long to learn." -- Leo, 7
"Like an avalanche where you have to run for your life." -- Roger, 9
CONCERNING WHY LOVERS OFTEN HOLD HANDS
"They want to make sure their rings don't fall off, because they paid good money for them." -- David, 8
"Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I've been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me." -- Bobby, 8
"I'm not rushing into being in love. I'm finding fourth grade hard enough." --Regina, 10
PERSONAL QUALITIES NECESSARY TO BE A GOOD LOVER
"One of you should know how to write a check. Because, even if you have tons of love, there is still going to be a lot of bills." -- Ava, 8
"Don't do things like have smelly green sneakers. You might get attention, but attention ain't the same as love." -- Alonzo, 9
WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?
"It's never okay to kiss a boy. They always slobber all over you . . . that's why I stopped doing it." -- Jean, 10
"Never kiss in front of other people. It's a big embarrassing thing if anybody sees you...If nobody sees you, I might be willing to try it with a handsome boy, but just for a few hours." -- Kally, 9
SOME SUREFIRE WAYS TO MAKE A PERSON FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU
"Tell them that you own a whole bunch of candy stores." -- Del, 6
"One way is to take a girl out to eat. Make sure it's something she likes to eat. French fries usually works me." -- Bart, 9
WHAT EXACTLY IS MARRIAGE?
"Don't forget your wife's name. That will mess up the love." -- Roger, 8
"Marriage is when you get to keep your girl and don't have to give her back to her parents." -- Eric, 6
"When somebody's been dating for a while, the boy might propose to the girl. He says to her, 'I'll take you for a whole life, or at least until we have kids and get divorced, but you got to do one particular thing for me.' Then she says yes, but she's wondering what the thing is and whether it's naughty or not. She can't wait to find out." -- Anita, 9
WHAT'S THE PROPER AGE TO GET MARRIED?
"Eighty-four, because at that age you don't have to work anymore, and you can spend all your time loving each other in your bedroom." -- Carolyn, 8
"Once I'm done with kindergarten, I'm going to find me a wife." -- Bert, 5
WHAT ROLE DO GOOD LOOKS PLAY IN LOVE?
"It isn't always just how you look. Look at me. I'm handsome like anything and I haven't got anybody to marry me yet." -- Gary, 7