According to History.com, in the third century, the Roman Empire under Claudius II had grown vast and unmanageable. He struggled to keep hold of its boundaries, and his military was unruly. To solve this problem, he outlawed marriage, believing that his young male soldiers—unencumbered by affectionate ties to family—would ratchet up their commitment to protecting his borders. Not surprisingly, his soldiers wanted to get married anyway. Then, as the legend goes, Valentine continued marrying them off to women in secret.
The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” can keep you away from the love of God (Rom. 8:38–39). Once you have committed yourself into his care—the way a mother is committed to her baby, or a man clings to the wife of his youth—God's love is powerful, deep, and eternal. That's why, when the emperor ordered Valentine to cease and desist on pain of death, young Valentine didn't stop officiating at weddings. He went first to prison, and then to death by beating and beheading.
While Emperor Claudius loved himself and his empire, Valentine directed his love towards God and others, so much so that he was willing to die for them. Love that is centered in oneself leads to bitterness, and eventually to one’s own destruction. But love that is centered in God and others discovers ultimate peace and goodness that never goes away.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
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