Be Their Valentine

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:16-18 (ESV)

It was the love of Christ that compelled a man named Valentinus to practice and preach his faith even in the face of persecution. Over 1,700 years ago, this man chose to do what God had called him to do, even though he knew it may cost him his life. He faithfully served his brothers and sisters in Christ and preached the gospel to his enemies. All around the world today our own brothers and sisters in Christ are being similarly persecuted. Every day Christians are routinely harassed, imprisoned, killed, or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness. God’s word makes it clear that all Christians make up one body, and that when pain is inflicted on parts of our body, we should all respond as though that pain were being inflicted upon our own selves. Christian believers who live in circumstances of prosperity and liberty should not only be grateful for what they have; they should make use of their resources to help their persecuted brothers and sisters. Each of us should love our Christian brothers and sisters enough to “remember” them.

It was the love of Christ that compelled a man named Valentinus to practice and preach his faith even in the face of persecution.  Over 1,700 years ago, this man chose to do what God had called him to do, even though he knew it may cost him his life.  He faithfully served his brothers and sisters in Christ and preached the gospel to his enemies.

All around the world today our own brothers and sisters in Christ are being similarly persecuted.   Every day Christians are routinely harassed, imprisoned, killed, or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness.  God’s word makes it clear that all Christians make up one body, and that when pain is inflicted on parts of our body, we should all respond as though that pain were being inflicted upon our own selves.  Christian believers who live in circumstances of prosperity and liberty should not only be grateful for what they have; they should make use of their resources to help their persecuted brothers and sisters.  Each of us should love our Christian brothers and sisters enough to “remember” them.

In the years 268-270 A.D Rome was under the harsh rule of Claudius II; aptly nicknamed, Claudius the Cruel.  He constantly waged bloody wars and his army was soon greatly reduced.  Claudius was having difficulty recruiting new soldiers and believed the problem was that young Roman men were unwilling to leave their loved-ones; since soldiers were required to fight for at least 25 years.  Claudius therefore outlawed marriages and engagements.  Valentine, or Valentinus as he was known, was a leader of the Christian church; which was also illegal under Claudius’ rule.  Valentinus had already endured persecution for refusing to worship the Roman gods, but this new law from the Emperor was yet another law that he intended to defy.  He felt it clearly went against the Word of God.  So, Valentinus continued marrying young couples—secretly, at night in the woods. It wasn’t long before he was arrested and brought before Claudius.  Valentinus did what many martyrs before him had done and used his time before the emperor to share the Gospel of Christ.

Legend has it that Valentinus was beheaded several days later on February 14th on the day that Romans honored Juno, the Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses, also known as the goddess of women and marriage.

It can often be easy to accept stories like that of St. Valentine because they seem far removed from our own personal experience.  It is easy to imagine that such things simply don’t happen anymore.   But, did you know that the bible is currently illegal in 52 countries?  Because of this law—it is incredibly difficult for believers in these countries to even get one bible for their entire church to share—let alone individual bibles for personal use.  If ever a Christian is discovered to be in possession of a bible; it may cost them their life.  Oftentimes it is illegal for Christians in these and other countries to be given jobs or allowed to earn income.  Depending on the country in which they live, their lives may be subjected to daily harassment and great difficulty, or they may even live under a constant threat of physical harm or death.  The truth is, more Christians were martyred during the 20th century than in all previous years combined.

Persecution has always been a part of Christianity.  Jesus Himself was harassed, arrested, beaten, and killed.  In the Gospel of John (15:18-20) Jesus actually promised that the same would come to those who followed him.  He said:  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” God’s word is filled with stories of persecution—but not only with persecution; but with directions for us on how to respond.   1 John 3:16-18 tells us: 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  And we read in Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

It is oftentimes said that we Christians in America need to understand and appreciate the freedom that we have.  This is true.  But we need to also understand and respond to the persecution afflicting our Body worldwide.  We need to purpose to pray for persecuted believers and we need to pool our resources to help them in their time of great need.

Valentine’s Day is soon approaching.  This is a great time for Christian Believers to learn about and remember the great faith of the saints who have preceded them.  However, it is also a great time to remind ourselves that the days of horrible persecution against Christians are far from over.  Let each of us purpose to learn more about the needs of the body of Christ around the world.  Let each of us make the commitment to remember those who are in prison, “as though in prison with them”.  Let each of us turn to one another and ask, “What can we do to show our brothers and sisters in Christ that we love them and that they are not forgotten?”

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