The evolution of Valentine’s Day has followed a course similar to the evolution of Santa Claus. It began with legends surrounding an obscure saint (actually, there’s more than one St. Valentine) from early Christian history that oddly morphed over the centuries into something else entirely. Then it exploded into a pop culture and commercial phenomenon in Victorian England (thank the Brits for greeting cards, flowers, and “confectionaries”), with the United States quickly jumping on the bandwagon.
No one knows for sure how a February 14th feast day commemorating a martyr(s) came to be a celebration of Eros love. It’s possible that when 5th Century Pope Gelasius l abolished the ancient Roman pagan fertility festival, Lupercalia (celebrated on February 15th), it ended up just meshing with St. Valentine’s Day. All we know is that “Volantynys day” abruptly shows up in a romantic poem by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th Century and it’s been with us ever since.
So what should Christians make of today’s Valentine’s Day?
As much as purely possible! Valentine was a saint and Eros is not Cupid’s domain. It’s God’s! Christians should be the most unashamed, exuberant celebrators of romantic love there are, and the strongest guardians of God’s design and boundaries, because God made it for us to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17)! And God, the greatest romantic in existence, has designed it to give us a taste of the greatest romance that will ever exist, of which all Christians will experience.
Be Drunk with Love!
On the Desiring God blog we tackle, with blood-earnestness, the issues of sexual sin, the scourge of pornography, the anguish of same-sex struggles, and the complexities and difficulties of marriage, dating, and singleness. We all know the crucial need to guard ourselves, our children and each other against our indwelling, sexually broken depravity and a culture that shoves illicit sexuality in our faces every day.
But just for a moment, let’s not dwell on the dangers and disappointments of Eros. Let’s simply savor the purely intoxicating joy that God intends for betrothed and married lovers!
Yes, intoxicating. That’s Bible-talk for romantic love:
Friends, drink, and be drunk with love! (Song of Solomon 5:1)
Be drunk with love! I would say that’s a sweet imperative. The Bible doesn’t want us to drink in moderation when it comes to loving our lover. We are to drink deeply and become inebriated.
Like the Best Wine
So in that sense Valentine’s Day is a good day to get drunk. And a good place for some wine tasting is in the Song of Solomon. One read and it isn’t surprising that this wild drinking romp through the vineyard of betrothed (pre-consummated) and marital romantic love makes it one of the most controversial books of the Bible! Here are some of its wine samples:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine. (Song 1:2)
How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine. (Song 4:10)
He brought me to his banqueting house (literally “house of wine”),
and his banner over me is love. (Song 2:4)
I came to my garden, my sister, my bride. . .
I drank my wine with my milk. (Song 5:1)
Your navel is a rounded bowl
that never lacks mixed wine. (Song 7:2)
Your mouth like the best wine.
It goes down smoothly for my beloved,
gliding over lips and teeth. (Song 7:9)
The taste of God’s Eros is like the best wine — even better! (There was more to Jesus’s first miracle than we first thought (John 2:1–11)!) And it’s meant to be drunk freely.
Married lovers, have you lost your taste for this wine? If so, go to the Song together. Walk back through the vineyards. Have foxes gotten in and spoiled them (Song 2:15)? It may be that for you this Valentine’s Day is a moment when you resolve together to “awaken love” (Song 3:5). Flowers, cards, and confectionaries won’t do that. Love awakens when you revel in each other.
Husbands, read sections 4:1–5 and 7:1–4. Hear the Song’s groom salivate over his bride’s eyes, hair, teeth, lips, cheeks, neck, breasts, feet, thighs, navel, belly, and nose. Let your lover hear your delight in her body!
Wives, read 5:10–16 and listen to the bride savor her groom’s locks, eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, body, legs, and mouth. Let your lover hear you luxuriate out loud in what you admire.
Hear again God’s invitation to you:
Friends, drink, and be drunk with love! (Song 5:1)
God wants married lovers to experience deeply, and future married lovers to anticipate, the full-orbed sensual and spiritual pleasure of erotically loving another embodied soul. And he designed this intoxication to occur within the safe chamber of marriage because forbidden intoxication can kill (Proverbs 5:15–19, 20–23).
I Am My Beloved’s and My Beloved Is Mine
But of course there is much more to the Song of Solomon than a celebration of marital Eros. In it is woven the mystery of the Great Romance:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31–32)
Because of this, the Song can be savored by every Christian. The deepest drink, the most wonderful inebriation Eros can provide any husband and wife in this age is only a copy and shadow of what’s to come. No Christian will miss out on the real thing.
At the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we drink the real wine with our Groom and enjoy an intimacy with him that we had only previously known in metaphors, then we will really know what was meant by “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Revelation 19:6–8; Matthew 26:29; Song 6:3).
And then we will all know what true and wholly pure intoxication is.