St. Valentine’s Day is a lot more complicated than red roses, sweet cards, and candy hearts. Not that those are simple either. Many of us wrack our brains to find the perfect gift for our loved ones. But February 14 is actually the anniversary of a murder: On that day, Valentine was beaten and beheaded.

One of the things that got Valentine in trouble with Emperor Claudius was his encouragement of young Christian couples to get married. (Married men were free from being conscripted into the army so Claudius preferred young men to stay single.) Valentine is also said to have tried to talk Claudius into becoming a Christian. Instead, Claudius gave Valentine an option: Renounce his faith in Jesus or be executed. He gave up his life on February 14, becoming a Christian martyr and later declared a saint.

Unsurprisingly, St. Valentine is the patron saint of young people, happy marriages, and love. But he is also the patron saint of epilepsy, beekeepers, and the bubonic plague (for reasons that no one seems to be able to explain). St. Valentine is much more complicated than the holiday makes him out to be.

Love, on the other hand, is much simpler than we make it out to be. We may fret over the right card or gift, but the bible says it really comes down to two simple things. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27).

All the rest is just the wrapping paper. So go love God and others today in whatever way you can.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Pastor Mark