There’s nothing very romantic about a man being beheaded because of his politically incorrect views. But Feb. 14 marks the 1,744th anniversary of when, tradition tells us, St. Valentine was executed in the Roman Empire for practicing his Christianity.
This was under a persecution of Emperor Claudius II, who banned his soldiers from marrying because he thought that single men could serve as better warriors.
He also forced the emperor-worship of a predecessor, Gallienus, upon the empire. This was something practicing Jews and Christians could not do – they worshiped God alone.
Author Bill Federer notes the consequences of Claudius’ actions on an Italian bishop (or priest) named Valentine: “When the emperor demanded the Church violate its conscience and worship pagan idols, Bishop Valentine refused to comply.”
Not only did Valentine not worship the emperor, he also surreptitiously married young couples. Federer notes, “St. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and then have his head cut off on Feb. 14, A.D. 269.”
Before he was beheaded, tradition tells us he prayed for the warden’s ill child, and she got better. The bishop wrote her a small note and said it was “from your Valentine.”
As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know, the rest of the story.”
Valentine’s Day is a great time to remember the importance of love in marriage. Something that seems to be often lacking these days.
I gave a speech at my wedding in 1980 in my wife’s church in Norway on “The 10 C’s of a Happy Marriage.” I don’t remember everything I said, but here a few key points I made.
The first “C” of a happy marriage for us is Christ, the foundation of our marriage. When we made Him No. 1 in our lives, everything else worked out, come what may.
About 20 years ago, I was on the road around Valentine’s Day. I called a florist to request flowers to be sent to my wife, and I dictated this message to accompany the flowers:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I love you the most,
Except for you know who.
The florist didn’t understand and was reluctant to even write it up that way. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” My wife, Kirsti, picked up the message right away, as to the “you know who.”
I remember another “C” was commitment. If you’re committed to each other, then you’ll work things out, even if it’s hard. This is not the same as romantic feelings. It’s rock solid commitment. Feelings come and feelings go. Then feelings come back, and they go. But commitment slogs on.
I remember a man who got married before I did. He also got divorced before I got married. I asked what happened. They got into a fight. OK, that happens to virtually everyone.
And then he said, “Don’t you love me anymore?” And she hesitated and said, “I’m not sure.”
He shouted, “That’s it. It’s over.” And it was off to the divorce court.
Feelings of love are one thing, but commitment to each other in love is a different thing. Millions of couples today think that if they fall in love with the right person, then the feelings of love will continue. But, again, feelings come and go. Commitment remains the same.
My wife and I made an agreement that before we got married, we could freely talk about divorce. But after we got married, we wouldn’t even joke about it, since divorce is not an option.
I used to laugh at the late Mrs. Billy Graham’s joke, when she was asked if she ever considered divorce. “Divorce? No. Murder? Yes.”
I say I used to laugh until I saw some episodes of true-crime documentaries, showing where till death did they parted – because one of them murdered his or her spouse.
Another key “C” for a happy marriage is communication. So often couples communicate on different levels. After a fight, if the husband buys her flowers, she might think he’s trying to buy her love. Talking things out is so helpful. Marriage Encounter weekends teach excellent tools for communicating with each other.
One great question to ask is: “What can I do to prove to you that I love you?” Listen to the answer, and then do it.
The last “C” for a happy marriage I want to highlight is confession – confessing sin and forgiveness of same. “I’m sorry” are some of the most important words in any language.
The Bible says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” In other words, don’t go to bed with a fight unresolved.
So on the anniversary of a third-century saint who prized his faith in the Lord and the importance of marriage above his own life, we can renew our commitments to love those whom God has placed in our lives, including our spouse. Happy St. Valentine’s Day!