“Love can save your life more than food…like water.”
– Dave Matthews, live in Las Vegas before singing “Loving Wings”
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:7-8
“Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put you in
Let love come teach me who you are again
Would you take me back to the place where my heart was only about You
And all I wanted was just to be with You…”
-“In Over My Head” by Bethel Music (Jenn Johnson)
Like all the other Christian days of remembrance, Valentine’s Day has been entirely secularized and lost a great deal of its significance.
Bishop Valentine lived in Umbria, Italy, in the mid-200s, and while under house arrest for arguing the validity of Jesus, he began discussing this topic with the very judge that sentenced him. The judge issued a challenge: if Bishop Valentine could cure the judge’s daughter of her blindness, the judge would in turn do anything the Bishop asked. After laying hands on and praying with the judge’s daughter, her sight was restored. The Bishop asked the judge to remove and destroy all the false idols in his home, and to be baptized. The judge did, and also released all the Christians persecuted and imprisoned under his authority. Bishop Valentine went on to evangelize in Rome, where he was later arrested, asked to renounce his faith, and when he refused, clubbed and beheaded on February 14.
Now, you say, what does that story have to do with the current holiday we celebrate? Though the consumerism of this world, and all of us who have bought into it, have diluted and distorted the significance of this event like a Disney movie on display, I offer you this:
Love is the way we achieve union with God, and simultaneously, the way we share (transfer) God to each other. Each of us was created in love, because God made us.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in his own image he created them, male and female.”Genesis 1:27 (emphasis mine)
Therefore, despite what we’ve heard all of our lives, we were born out of blessing, not out of sin. Original blessing, as Richard Rohr calls it.
“For everything God created is good…”1 Timothy 4:4 (emphasis mine)
That original blessing is inside each of us. I’ve heard it described before as a pilot light. God gave us our pilot light, made from Him. And since He is love, our pilot light is, in its purest form, Love – the love that cures all ills, that heals the sick, and that eradicates the darkness of this world. Just like Jesus. Jesus instructed the disciples (and, by extension, all of us) after his Resurrection, by commissioning them to:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”Mark 16:15-18
(I will also mention that the words above were so vital in the Gospel, that they were the last words of Mark’s pen before he was called to heaven.)
If we are in touch with God, we recognize God in all things. We see the value in all people, and the good that can come from every situation. We are drawn to one another in love, because we long to return to that reunion of like meeting like – of light joining light. Love is the universal language of the world, one we all understand and that needs no translation. It transcends the walls of culture, the borders of country, and rises above laws and lawlessness.
Whether the disease of our world is poverty, addiction, war, or simply being an asshole to people (yes, that’s a really common one, but it’s counter to God’s way and so, I include it) – love is the origin of the cure. There is no healing, in any form, without it. No one is spared or saved without it. Everyone suffers without it. No one survives in its absence.
So, then, back to Bishop Valentine. He, that day, was simply God’s channel for love. Like many, many early Christians, was acting out the very example of Jesus through the gifts of the Spirit, given to each of us in accordance with His will. Bishop Valentine passed divine love on to the judge’s blind daughter in such a way that God allowed her to be healed of her affliction for His glory. The light of Love then carried throughout the house, and then throughout the community – healing everyone it touched. And this is the way love works.
Pouring love into someone, or something – perhaps an animal, or a project with a special purpose – never returns void. What is nurtured then turns around and nurtures the next in its presence. And the healing touch spreads. It is how our world heals itself.
So, if you have forgotten that you have a pilot light, here’s your reminder. Flowers and candy and dinner out are all perfectly fine ways of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day. But, let us now remember that every day is an opportunity to practice the kind of love that Bishop Valentine was brave and bold enough to share. The greatest love often comes at the greatest cost, and we shouldn’t be afraid. Ask for God to protect you as you extend your heart to others, and ask for your pilot light to re-ignite if it needs a little kindling. God, the Lover of our soul, and to whom we will always belong, will show us the way.