This Valentine’s Day we, at the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, are launching our Peacemaker Blog because after all, our commitment to Christian Peace is all about our belief in love right?
Well, as you open your cards and eat your chocolates, you might also like to reflect on the fact that the real Saint Valentine was thought to be quite the radical peacemaker of his day.
Serving as a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, St Valentine is thought to have challenged the Emperor’s war ambitions, and as such, placed his life on the line for persecuted Christians at the time.
During that time, Emperor Claudius forbade young men to become engaged or get married, believing that love, marriage and family life prevented man from being willing and capable to fight in what were very unpopular and violent wars.
Rejecting the Emperors law, and significantly the fear of his likely punishment, Valentine secretly married dozens of young Christian couples. When his weddings were discovered, his radical and brave actions against the Emperor led to his arrest and subsequent beheading.
So yes, on Valentine’s Day we do remember that ‘God is Love’ (1 John 4.8) and that the significance of that ripples through the Christian life and our commitment to peace-making. We also remember that our commitment to love is far from as flimsy as the way we now celebrate Valentine’s Day. God’s commandment to love Him, one another and even our enemies is so radical and difficult that we are afraid of it.
As such, when it comes to peace and nonviolence, what often prevents us from believing in the power of God’s love is our own fear. Today fear is pandemic. Fear makes us afraid of one another, afraid to be different and afraid to face what is true. And significantly, the experience of being afraid can be so uncomfortable that we avoid the issues that make us feel fearful, even when we are called to face them courageously.
Many people have challenged this fear however, including early Christians like Valentine, who faced execution for their rejection of war and commitment to pacifism. Throughout history peacemakers have risked their lives to live according to God’s commandments and more importantly the same Christians have saved lives, transformed societies, healed deep wounds and brought the worst of enemies together.
Thankfully Jesus knew about our natural trait for fear and said a great deal about it. Throughout the New Testament we read passages encouraging us not to be afraid. What’s more, often when the bible talks about not being afraid it all describes the results of that as being peace.
I believe that one of the greatest ways we can commit to love in today’s world is to always be willing to confront fear and challenge where it has become normalised in society. As such, this blog will invite those interested in peace-making from within APF and outside, to review, reflect, debate and tell stories from the world of peace and reconciliation. This is because these are issues that should be heard and conversations that need to be had.
And we start this conversation off today by remembering that on Valentine’s day, standing up for love can be dangerous, but God’s perfect love can also expel all fear (1 John. 4.18).
The story of St Valentine is taken from the book Blessed Peacemakers: 365 Extraordinary People Who Changed the World, 2013, by Robin Walters and Robin Jarrell