However, it was the Romans who initiated the celebration. In the 200s A.D., a Christian named Valentine lived in Rome under the cruel Emperor Claudius II. Claudius II had Valentine put in prison for aiding persecuted Christians. There he was the Lord’s agent for healing the jailor’s daughter of blindness. Around 270 A.D. he was beheaded on Palatine Hill, a victim of his loyalty to the Lord.
In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius named Feb. 14, Saint Valentine’s Day — a day to celebrate love.
Today we continue the custom of sending love notes to special people in our lives.
They express our love for others and solicit their love with the expression “Be My Valentine.”
Love! The ancient Greeks got it right. In modern English we have one word for love with many definitions. They had three distinct words.
“Agape,” is the Greek word most often translated “love” in the Bible.
The word emerged in the Bible era meaning “the ultimate willful act of self-sacrificing for the welfare of someone else.” The prototype of agape is the love Christ showed us. Agape love is self-sacrificing. Agape love “prizes” someone or something. It recognizes the worthiness of the object loved.
Another Greek word for love is “eros.” The Greeks used this word to speak of love that we know as physical attraction between persons on a sexual level.
As a noun it was the name of the ancient Greek god of love Eros, known to the Romans as Cupid.
Their word for that emotion was not related to what was meant by agape. We get our word “erotic” from their word eros. To gain a perspective of the difference in agape and eros, try substituting the meaning of eros for agape love in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world ... that He felt romantic about it ... that He got a tingling sensation down His spine ... that He had a friendly spirit of tolerance and brotherhood toward it no matter what it believed ...”
A third Greek word translated as love is “philos.” It was the Greek word for a kind of love which we describe by friendship or brotherly love. It is warm affection apart from any sexual attraction. It is characterized by “fondness, liking, or affection for” a person or thing.
Only when we love with agape love, that is self-sacrificing for the welfare of another, can we get eros and philos working right.
The impact of love is expressed in this quote attributed to the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “Someday after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, we shall harness for God, the energy of love, and then for the second time in the history of the world man will discover fire.”
Further importance of love is noted by Karl Menninger, co-founder of the Menninger Clinic, one of the modern era’s most outstanding psychiatrists said,
“Love is the medicine for the sickness of the world.”
Agape, that is Valentine.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church. Contact Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.