Valentine’s Day is filled with romantic dates, gifts, flowers, chocolates, and anything pink and heart-shaped. We often forget that it is Saint Valentine’s Day. Saint Valentine was a third-century Roman saint who is celebrated on February 14, the day he was martyred. His death has been honored that way since 496 A.D.

So why do we associate this with love?

The answer is surprisingly anti-climactic. It has nothing to do with his life; no great story of unrequited love or blessings he gave on some young couple. During the Middle Ages, it was thought that birds mated in mid-February. This became associated with the romance of Valentine. The legends differ, but Valentine’s Day is now widely recognized as a day of love.

How romantic, right?

However, Valentine’s story actually has deep ties to the church.

One legend says that Valentine, who was a priest, went against the order of the emperor Claudius and secretly performed Christian weddings for couples. This allowed husbands to escape being drafted into the pagan army. Apparently, soldiers were few and far between at this time, so this was a serious inconvenience to the emperor. The account mentions that “to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment.” He gave them to persecuted Christians, and this may be a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine was eventually caught, arrested, and imprisoned. Helping Christians at this time was a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner, but when Valentine tried to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death. It is said that before his execution, he performed the miracle of restoring sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer in an effort to show God’s power.

The jailer was shocked and asked what he should do now. Valentine told him to destroy all of his idols, fast for three days, and be baptized. The jailer followed these directions, and he freed all the imprisoned Christians under his jurisdiction.

Valentine refused to stop making Christ known.

So continue your celebrations of love on Valentine’s Day, but take a moment to go deeper into the meaning of love. Not the love of a man toward a woman, or even the mating of birds, but the love of Christ. Agape love. When the word “agape” is used in the Bible, it refers to a pure, willful, sacrificial love that God exemplified through his son.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:16)