Costly Love on Valentine’s Day

'Tis the season for love, it seems. Chocolate hearts, flowers, coupons for dinners for two. It’s all over the newspaper ads . . . or your Groupon emails. Maybe your calendar (or recent events) have kept it top of mind even before the discounts and commercials started flying.

Maybe you and your husband have a special night or trip planned. Or you’re looking forward to getting a gift (or a ring) from a special someone.

Or . . . you could be looking forward to a night out with the girls. Fun, frolic, and not a guy in sight. Happy Singles’ Awareness Day or Gal-entines Day, y’all.

Perhaps you’re the one with no plans and outwardly okay with it but secretly wishing you had a special someone to make your life better. (This might be me . . . a little.)

Valentine’s Day could be bitter. Maybe a breakup or a recent death or a still-fresh-in-your-mind divorce is shadowing your view of everyone else’s celebration. Or your spouse is present, but things are just not what they should be.

No matter your situation, Valentine’s Day is a day where our world has stepped in and attempted to provide us answers for the longing of our souls. Are you lonely? Then you need a special someone to make you feel more complete. Do you long for someone to desire you, to look at you as beautiful and worthy? That’s why you need a husband—right? Do you want to be loved? Then just set aside this day, spend lots of money, and head out on the town. Do you want to feel powerful? Then celebrate your wonderful life of singleness (needing no man) with the girlfriends.

And if these desires aren’t being met, if Valentine’s Day doesn’t meet your expectations, then you must be doing something wrong . . . right?

But is this the hope that Jesus stands to offer us? Is any of this real or true?

An Invitation to More

I’m not here to say that celebrating the bond of love with your spouse is wrong or that having a girls’ night out is problematic. Celebration is good! (Why else would God give the Israelites so many feasts to enjoy?) But at times it’s helpful to step back and ask ourselves, Are the ideas and values I’m celebrating today actually biblical? Are they the best good? Do they point to the kingdom to come?

Let’s think about it. Romantic love between a husband and wife can be a beautiful thing—pointing to the joy Christ gives all of us and the loveliness of a strong, affectionate marriage. And celebrating friendship with other people in the same season of life with you is also a good gift. God indeed gives us these blessings to enjoy (and celebrate!) for His glory.

But looking at Valentine’s Day as a whole, it’s often more focused on the values of our culture than the values of the cross. And that a day with a beautiful (though not romantic or glamorous) history has been overtaken with commercialism and worldly ideals of love.

I want to invite you into a deeper meaning—beyond the chocolate, flowers, and chick-flicks—that also ushers us into True Hope for our problems with love.

The Story Behind the Day

Valentine’s Day was originally added to our calendar to celebrate a real person named Valentine who gave his life for Christ. Many stories have circulated about him over the centuries, including that he married people in opposition to the government and that he miraculously healed the daughter of his judge, sending her a letter right before his death signed, “Your Valentine.” This is the stuff Hallmark movies are made of. In case you’re wondering, the romantic part of the holiday came along in the Middle Ages, when courtly “knight and lady” love was the name of the game, and an idea to change the day into a celebration of the values of that time caught on.

Like most legends, likely there’s some truth involved here, but no facts have been established about Valentine except this key one: He suffered and died for the cause of Christ. The gospel meant enough to him that he was willing to give his life.

Valentine was one of the many people over the centuries who believed and lived the words of Jesus.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24–26).

Self-denial. Self-sacrifice. Surrender. Union with the death of Christ. Those are the values that Valentine and the thousands of other martyrs (including the apostles) saw as beautiful, lovely, and good. They saw their Savior as the true Need-Meeter and Lover of their souls. And they paid the price.

And this is what Valentine’s Day was originally meant to celebrate—a life of complete abandon to our gloriously beautiful Christ. A dedication to sacrificial, cross-bearing, Jesus-reflecting love for God and others.

A Picture of True Love

No matter what season of life you’re in—single, dating, engaged, married (happily or unhappily), separated, widowed, or divorced—if your idea of love looks more like a romantic film or a Jared® commercial than a splintery, gory cross and a suffering Savior, then can I encourage you to step back and listen to these truths?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4–7).

“You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you,' Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'” (Matt. 5:43–44).

Friend, none of these qualities by which Scripture defines love would be needed without suffering. You don’t have to be patient with a perfect significant other. You wouldn’t have to guard against envy if all your expectations about love could be met completely. You don’t have to bear things or endure things or pray for enemies in a flawless romance.

We face difficulties and a desire for the ideal Valentine’s Day because the world is broken by sin, and so is our ability to love. But this is the hope: We have a Bridegroom that does love perfectly. We have a King that sweeps His Bride off her feet, throws a giant banquet to celebrate, and carries her home into a beautiful resurrection kingdom. But here’s the catch: A perfect love story like this doesn’t come without suffering.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

He died. And He encourages us to do the same: deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.

A Call to Love Like Christ

If you’re married, this may mean celebrating Valentine’s Day with your significant other—choosing to forgive, speak words you don’t feel like speaking, allowing yourself to be romanced when your heart’s not in it, or going out on a date when you’re hurting and would rather stay in. Or it may mean giving up your right to a perfect dream date because finances are tight or your husband is suffering an illness or currently overseas.

If you’re single, for whatever reason, it may mean giving up a relationship that is not pleasing to God or denying your desires (again!) when giving in to lust would be so much easier. It may mean spending your evening encouraging someone who’s grieving, watching kids for a happy couple’s date, or taking an extended time to focus on your Savior. It may even mean going out to dinner with friends and choosing joy, when you’d rather stay home on the couch and eat that entire pint of ice cream.

For all of us it means giving up what we desire for the love of Christ and sacrificing our will for the good of others. This is our True Hope and our calling. This is the costly love that imitates Jesus and is worth celebrating.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.These things I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:12–17).

Take heart! There is hope for our Valentine’s Day—because Jesus gave His all for us. So now, by His Holy Spirit, we can give up what we never thought we could and do what we never thought we would for Him and others. Celebrate the divine, glorious romance today by joyfully taking up your cross and resting in His love.

About the Author

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins is a biblical counselor based in northern Indiana who finds joy in helping people find help, hope, and healing in Christ. Reading, hiking, watching soccer, collecting records, and chatting over coffee are her everyday delights. Hayley formerly served … read more …

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