A violinist playing romantic melodies, surrounded by heart balloons; in the doorway of a jewelry store; if that doesn’t capture the vibe of Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what does. Sue and I were in the city on business and Panama has fully embraced this holiday. We saw workers dressed as cupids; a giant teddy bear handing out chocolate samples, couple’s specials on the menus; red and white everywhere. We even saw a great Valentine’s Day discount on a big-screen TV! There’s nothing like buying a present that will enable you to ignore your loved one till next February.

Valentine’s Day has ancient roots. So ancient, they can’t be pinned down. It probably began as a Roman fertility holiday wisely supplanted by the ancient church with a more Christian celebration. And Saint Valentine? The legends abound, but again go back so far (270 A.D.) that no one can say for sure. There are two Valentines in church history, and both appear so early that they might even be the same person. In both cases, the man bearing the name was martyred for his faith in Christ. In that sense it’s not a bad thing that the name Valentine is identified with love.

Some people blame the modern Valentine’s Day on the Hallmark Card Company, but the celebration went awry long before the card industry … or even before the United States. Romantic verses associated with Valentine’s Day have been found dating back to the 1500s. Commercially printed Valentine’s cards appeared in the late 1700s but not until the 1850s in North America. We may have shown the world how to milk it for all its commercial worth … but you can’t blame the whole mess on my country.

Is Valentine’s Day a mess? Not entirely. I don’t think it’s wrong for a husband and wife to use the date to do something special to celebrate their love. But … I’m pretty sure that the original Mr. Valentine would not appreciate all that’s done under his name.

Our gracious Heavenly Father invented human love and the context for its right expression. Jesus, when asked about marriage, made this very clear, “at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4–6

So, what should a Christian celebrate … exclusivity, faithfulness and a lifelong bond between one man and one woman. Pastors are sadly and sympathetically aware that this doesn’t always happen in our fallen world. A broken reality doesn’t negate God’s beautiful intent or the fact that Jesus’ words describe God’s will for those who choose marriage. I’ll close with some of the most romantic and beautiful words on marriage that I’ve found in the Bible,

May you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer … may you ever be captivated by her love. Proverbs 5:18–19

Thank you Sue for 31 Valentine’s Days … and approximately 11,293 days of love!