What the Bible says about Valentine’s Day

What do big red hearts filled with chocolate, pink teddy bears, flower boutiques, and glitter cards with phrases like, “I love you to the moon and back!” all have in common? They all are centred on love.

The Bible tells us that God is love. Valentine’s day is also about celebrating love.

If you are a christian, chances are you have already planned how you will celebrate Valentine’s Day this February 14.

But what does the Bible say about Valentine’s Day? In the book of I John 5:3, it reads: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

So, the Bible is saying that keeping God’s commandments is equivalent and paramount to showing love.

Origin of Valentine’s Day

The Romans had an ancient pagan festival called Lupercalia held every year in Rome between February 13 and 15 and dates back to the sixth century B.C.

Although Valentine’s Day shares its name with a martyred Christian saint, St. Valentine, some historians believe the holiday is actually an offshoot of Lupercalia. Unlike Valentine’s Day, however, Lupercalia was a bloody, violent and sexually charged celebration awash with animal sacrifice, random matchmaking and coupling in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility.

Men also randomly choose their mate by picking the name of the girl from a jar. The couple would be paired for the entire duration of the feast.

It was Pope Gelasius I in the fifth century AD who abolished Lupercalia and replaced it with Valentine’s Day in honor of St. Valentine and as a celebration of his martyrdom. He declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.

But despite the efforts to Christianize Lupercalia, the symbols used and some activities on Valentine’s Day are still connected to the ancient pagan festival.

Who is St Valentine?

St. Valentine is believed to have been a priest during the third century in Rome. After Emperor Claudius II declared single men made better soldiers, he outlawed marriage for young men.

Valentine went behind Emperor Claudius’ law and performed marriages in secret. When this was discovered, Claudius had him put to death.

Other stories suggested that Valentine helped Christians to escape Roman prisons. In this narrative, Valentine was imprisoned when he sent the very first valentine’s letter to a young lady. It is believed he sent it to his jailor’s daughter. Before his death, he wrote her another letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

By the time the middle ages came around, St. Valentine had become a popular saint. Although we do not know if these stories are true, St. Valentine is still viewed as a romantic saint who helped to start Valentine’s Day.

What the Bible says about love

The Bible has a lot to say about love: God is the God of Love. The kind of love that people celebrate on Valentine’s Day is romantic love, but the ancient Greek, in which the Bible was written, differentiates different types of love. So let’s take a look at what they are.

Philia – Brotherly and sisterly love, the love that Christians have for one another, the love that we have for others, the love that enacts care, respect and compassion. It’s the love for which Philadelphia was named, the City of Brotherly Love.

Eros – This is the type of love that is most closely associated with Saint Valentine’s Day, romantic, sensual love. There is nothing dirty or shameful about this type of love, its most famous celebration can be found in the Song of Solomon.

Storge – Familial love, the love of parents for their children and of children for their parents.

Agape – The greatest love of all, the unconditional divine love of God.

Perhaps the most famous words concerning love, in the Bible, are those that Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians. The type of love that Saint Paul is talking about here is agape, which is why the King James Version uses the word ‘charity’, a word which four hundred years ago had a much broader meaning than it has today.

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV.

The Bible is plain. Any festival that is rooted in paganism is prohibited. Valentine’s Day is one of them.

What’s wrong with showing love?

Love is more than just giving chocolates, cards, and jewellery.

The Bible talks about the godly love that shows selfless concern for the welfare of others, as opposed to the erotic love by which many people are drawn to on Valentine’s Day. It’s not a one-day event that you just remember or celebrate on one single day in February.

Romans 13:8,10 says: ‘Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law.’

The New Times’ Edwin Musoni 

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