Crazy Love

Genesis 45.15

And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him. 

Last week I paced through the “seasonal” aisle at the grocery store looking for the right Valentines. Was I searching for the items that would perfectly convey my love for my wife? No. Instead, I was trying to find appropriate cards/items that my son could distribute during his celebration of the holiday in his kindergarten class.

Tucked away behind the heart shaped boxes of chocolate varieties was a solitary box of Mandalorian Valentines, and I knew that Elijah would delight in giving them to all his friends.

And this morning, as I walked him to school, I asked him if he knew why he was bringing Valentines to school and he said, “I’m sure it has something to do with Jesus.”

And he wasn’t wrong!

Valentine’s Day is a particularly striking holiday because of the juxtaposition from how it started to what it looks like today.

There were numerous Christians in the early church named Valentine and many of them were martyred for their faith. That is, their commitment to the kingdom of God was such that the powers and principalities believed the only way to stop them was to kill them.

But perhaps the most famous Valentine was Valentine the Bishop of Terni during the 3rd century. The story goes that he was put under house arrest by Judge Asterius for evangelizing and the two of them eventually struck up a conversation about Jesus. The judge wanted to put Valentine’s faith to the test and brought in his blind daughter and asked for her to be healed. If Valentine was successful, the judge agreed to do whatever he asked.

Valentine, then, placed his hands on the girl’s blind eyes and her vision was restored.

Overcome by the miracle, the judge agreed to get baptized and freed all of the Christian inmates under his authority.

Later, Valentine was arrested (again) for his continued attempts to share the Good News and was sent before the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Valentine attempted to convince the Claudius to convert to the faith, but then Valentine was condemned to death unless he renounced his own faith.

Valentine refused and was beheaded on… (wait for it)… February 14th, 269.

Later additions to the story proclaim that, shortly before his execution, Valentine wrote a letter to the young girl he once healed and he signed it, “from your Valentine” which is said to have inspire the holiday we now enjoy.

So, what does a beheaded Christian martyr have to do with boxes of chocolate and bouquets of roses?

The book of Genesis is full of family betrayals and deceits. Particularly dreadful is the story of Jacob being sold into slavery by his brothers because they couldn’t handle their own jealousy. Jacob makes a name for himself in Egypt and eventually reconciles with the very brothers who abandoned/betrayed him when they come looking for food to eat.

Jacob’s love for his brothers was such that, even though they ruined his life, he “kisses them and weeps upon them.” 

Love is awful like that. It can make us do crazy and bewildering things. At least, they are crazy and bewildering according to the world.

But consider what we do on Valentine’s Day: we throw away gobs of money on trivial and fleeting items. The flowers will eventually fade and the chocolate will expire.

But others will say that St. Valentine’s willingness to die for his faith, and Jacob’s willingness to forgives his brothers, is even crazier.

Love is a crazy thing.

It also happens to be how God feels about us.

God, in Christ, full of hope and grace and mercy mounts the hard wood of the cross to die for us. And then, three days later, God gives him back to us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love Is A Crazy Thing

Devotional: 

Jeremiah 17.9

The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it?

Weekly Devotional Image

Last night I frantically paced through the grocery store while looking for Valentine’s Day gifts. You might be thinking that I am a delinquent husband neglecting to properly procure said gifts with plenty of days to spare, but these were not little trinkets for my wife. Instead I was trying to find appropriate cards/items that my son could hand out during his Preschool party today. 

Tucked away in the corner of the store were shelves upon shelves of pink, red, and white. And at the bottom were the kid friendly gifts and when my son saw a package containing Lightning McQueen pencils, he tucked them under his arm and triumphantly declared, “We’ve got our plan!”

This morning, as we were walking across the parking lot toward his preschool, he inexplicably looked up at me with his Valentines in his hand and asked, “Daddy, why do we give these presents?”

And I realized that I had yet to even explain Valentine’s Day to him.

In the moment I just offered a brief response about how it’s a kind way to show the people around us that we love them, but upon getting back to my car I couldn’t get his question out of my head.

Valentines-Day

Because I know about Saint Valentine for whom the day is named, and it’s always been strange for me to reconcile what so many of us will do tomorrow with who he was.

There were numerous Christians in the early church named Valentine and many of them were martyred for their faith. But perhaps the most famous was Valentine the Bishop of Terni during the 3rd century. The story goes that he was put under house arrest by Judge Asterius for evangelizing and the two of them eventually struck up a conversation about Jesus. The judge wanted to put Valentine’s faith to the test and brought him his blind daughter and asked him to heal her – if Valentine was successful, the judge agreed to do whatever he asked.

So Valentine placed his hands on the girls blind eyes and her vision was restored.

Overcome by the miracle the judge eventually agreed to be baptized and freed all of the Christian inmates under his authority.

Later Valentine was arrested again for his continued attempts to evangelize and was sent before the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Though Claudius liked having Valentine around, he tried to convince the emperor to become a Christian and the emperor condemned him to death unless he renounced his faith.

Valentine refused the emperor’s request and was beheaded on February 14th, 269.

Later additions to the story imply that shortly before his execution, Valentine wrote a note to the young girl he once healed and signed it “from your Valentine” which is said to have inspired the Hallmark holiday that tomorrow brings.

So what does a beheaded Christian martyr have to do with boxes of chocolate and bouquets of flower?

The prophet Jeremiah warns that the heart is devious above all else. It compels people to do incredible things, but it can also compel people to do horrible things. Who can possibly understand what love can make us do?

I often think it’s crazy to see the kind of stuff people will do tomorrow, including the amount of money that people will spend of trivial and fleeting items. But others will say that Valentine’s willingness to give his life for Jesus is even worse.

Love is a crazy thing.

It just also happens to be how God feels about us.

So much so that God in Christ, out of love, mounted the hardwood of the cross to die for us.

Happy early Valentine’s Day!