Love has been sentimentalized. Too often, it is stripped of its suffering and its passion—all that appears to have remained is the heart shape.
But suffering and love go hand in hand – especially in the Bible. The sacrifices of Leviticus outline a bloody method for appeasing an angry and holy God. The life force of living things had to be poured out. This was done to the flesh that was completely consumed by the fire and that which was to be eaten. These offerings had to die.
Similarly, the torture of Christ was a bloody mess (Isaiah 53). The passion of Christ had as its centerpiece Jesus of Nazareth’s complete surrender to the will of God.
In Romans 12:1-2, however, we hear of a different kind of sacrifice all together; namely, we are to be living sacrifices by opening our hearts and minds to God so that by God’s Holy Spirit we may be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and we will learn how to live God’s will. Yet how many of us are so bold in our surrender?
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Of course, none of this comes to mind when we think of Valentine’s Day. We don’t even recall St. Valentine himself who, according to legend, lost his head for love when he, a bishop, continued to secretly wed young Christian lovers after Claudius the Cruel banned all Christian weddings and engagements in the Roman Empire.
No, when I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of my box of chocolates. I seldom recall St. Valentine’s dedication, Leviticus’ sacrifice, but my surrender to God? That’s a timely concern of mine always!
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice for Women of the ELCA.
Photo of St. Valentine kneeling in supplication | David Teniers III [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons