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Do You Know the History of Valentine's Day?


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For $3,000, you can order a hamburger that comes with an engagement ring on the side.

Pauli’s, in Boston’s North End, will sell you a Big Boy burger with a 7/8 carat Neil Lane ring nestled in the bun. The ring is framed with round diamonds and a fourteen-carat gold band.

You’ve missed Valentine’s Day, however-the restaurant requires forty-eight hours’ notice.

Today’s holiday didn’t start with St. Valentine. Many historians think the tradition began more than two thousand years ago with an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia. This holiday in turn inherited some of its traditions from an earlier festival called Februa, from which we get the name of “February.”

Lupercalia began each year when a pagan priest sacrificed goats and dogs to the goddess Juno. The hides of the animals were cut into strips by the priests. Women were then struck by these hides as they ran counterclockwise around Palatine Hill in Rome. This was supposed to make them more likely to have children.

The Romans celebrated Lupercalia until around AD 500, when Christian authorities brought it to an end. So, be grateful you don’t have to kill a dog or be flogged with its hide today. Valentine’s Day is a much nicer holiday.

However, a holiday is not necessarily a holy day.

The sexual revolution has no winners

The sexual revolution redefined love as a feeling rather than a commitment. Since research indicates that the feeling of love typically fades after about fifteen months, it’s inevitable that many will abandon their old commitment in search of new feelings.

The legalization of birth control pills in 1960 made it far easier for couples to have sex without fear of pregnancy. The advent of “no-fault divorce” in 1969 led to an enormous escalation in the divorce rate. The legalization of abortion in 1973 further encouraged promiscuity.

And pornography has become such a plague on our society that New York Timescolumnist Ross Douthat recently wrote an article calling for its outright ban. His argument is persuasive: “We are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut.”

In a culture with such a broken sexual ethic, how can you and I choose God’s best for our marriages and relationships?

“Let marriage be held in honor among all”

Let’s remember five biblical principles regarding sex, sexuality, and marriage.

One: Sex is God’s gift for marriage. We are taught: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). The sixth commandment is clear: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

Two: Lust is wrong. Jesus was blunt: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

Three: Sexual immorality grieves God. Scripture warns us: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Four: We must not compromise with sexual sin. We are told that “he who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32). That’s why the Bible commands us to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Five: God will help us choose purity. We are assured that “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). This is because it is “the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Whatever the Lord asks us to do, he helps us to do. He “gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). As a result, “by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

“Act into feelings rather than feel into actions”

Today is a good opportunity for us to choose St. Valentine over Lupercalia, Christ over culture, love over lust. Let’s begin by asking God to help us live in purity and freedom. Then let’s find a way to express biblical love in biblical ways.

Counselors encourage us to “act into feelings rather than feel into actions.” In other words, act as if you love a person, and your feelings will often follow.

But whether they do or not, remember that love is a commitment. And know that the God who is love will help you share his love with those you love. Max Lucado is right: “Those in the circle of Christ had no doubt of his love; those in our circles should have no doubt about ours.”


Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Johnny Brown

Publication date: February 14, 2018


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