Legend tells us that, when Claudius II was emperor of Rome, he was looking for a way to improve and enlarge his army. He felt that unmarried men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. That is why he outlawed marriage for young men – his crop of potential soldiers.
There was a problem, however. There was a young church leader who did not agree with the emperor’s judgment. He thought it was unjust. This young man defied Claudius’ decree and continued to perform marriages in secret for young lovers. When that young man’s courageous actions were eventually discovered, he was arrested and put to death. That young man’s name was Valentine – and it is in his honor that we celebrate Valentine’s Day.
This legend is one of several that surrounds the life and death of Valentine. When it comes to a figure like this who lived so long ago, and about whom so little was recorded, it is hard to sort out fact from fiction. There are, however, several themes in the stories that are consistent – he loved God, he loved people, he was placed in prison for his obedience to God, and he was martyred for his testimony.
Today we, like Valentine, are living in a time when men are coming up with “better ideas” than what God commands – especially in the area of gender identity, love, and marriage. The enacting of transgender bathroom decrees and the legalizing of gay “marriage” are just two items in a long list of the “Emperor’s New Ideas” that have come along in the last decade or so. The problem is – these ideas do not just stay in the legal books. They are not content to collect dust in the law library. They seep out into our workplaces, communities, and schools. They end up redefining who we are, what a family is, and what love is all about. They criminalize the truth.
Valentine was a man who knew what was true. He was willing to stand for what was true, even if he stood alone. He stood against the prevailing worldview that truth was whatever the emperor said it was. We know little about his upbringing, but we know that he knew Christ. His mind had been renewed by God’s word. As a result, he saw the world as God saw it.
In these days of societal “gender dysphoria,” when a person could lose his job or be “cancelled” for using the politically incorrect pronoun, it is important to be like Valentine and see the world like God sees it. The book of Genesis tells us:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Gender is a fact of Divine creation not a product of human invention. Although we live in a society where gender is seen to be malleable, it really is not – and it is a cruel joke to pretend that it is. We are who God has made us to be. Better yet, He is more than willing to bestow the grace, through Christ, to fully be that person.
Over the years I have had the privilege of knowing people like co-workers, and even a college roommate, who were members of the LGBTQ community (and a couple of ones who left that lifestyle.) They were smart, hard-working people who deserved the same respect and rights as anyone else – but it did not mean that I had to approve of their lifestyle, or accept it as normal. The problem today is the “Empire,” as in the time of Valentine, is trying to force a new normal upon us. There is a constant and subtle pressure to believe what is not true.
Millions of valentines are produced around Valentine’s Day. They are made out of candy, lace and acres of red paper. Real valentines – men and women like Valentine of old – are produced through the work of God’s Spirit, though His Word, in their hearts. We need to be sure we are those people. If things keep going the way they are going, our country is going to need all the Valentines it can get.