by Sherma Webbe Clarke | @sdwc8181
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
I received three red dresses this past Christmas in a variety of shades and styles. Is red my favorite color? No. Did I thank the giver sincerely each time I opened a box and pulled out another red dress? Yes. Will I try to wear each dress in appreciation of his gifts? Yes.
Starting on Valentine’s Day.
After all of the red that surrounds the Christmas season, I need a break. Time to settle back into my usual colors and clothes. But as Valentine’s Day approaches, I begin to think about red again. And love. I open my Bible and mine for stories of love.
1. John 3:16
One of the first verses I learned as a child was John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. This verse acts as a synopsis of what I know about God, from creation to end-time events. This verse contains hope, a promise, and a future. The plan of salvation is the ultimate gift to a fallen race of people from a loving Father. During a visit to Jerusalem, I walked in the footsteps of Jesus when he cloaked himself in humanity. What caused the Lamb of God to leave the throne room of heaven to live a life of poverty in a sin-sick world? Love.
2. 1 Corinthians 13
When I was a young adult (oh, so long ago!), it was almost expected to include a reading of 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings. The Love Chapter. The happy couple would look into each other’s eyes as the characteristics of love were declared. My husband once gave me a small pamphlet that contained this passage of scripture in an abundance of versions. Each version held a different tone, from Old English language to colloquial, but the message remained the same. Love never fails. Now as an older adult, I understand that the theme of this chapter transcends romantic or marital love. The love of God should flow through us and drench every area of our lives. In our ministry positions, demonstrate a loving spirit. At the workplace, be kind. When faced with an obstacle, exercise wisdom. God’s love is the answer to the complexities and is the source of joys in our lives.
3. Luke 15:3-32
Jesus, the Master Storyteller, talked about God’s love in short stories called parables. The Bible says ‘parable’; these days we might say ‘flash fiction’. Of the three parables in Luke 15, the relationship between the wandering son and hopeful father is the most poignant to me. The imagery in this story is compelling and vivid. I imagine a stubborn boy walking away from his heartbroken father. I picture the split screen of an empty, self-indulgent lifestyle versus the stability of home. And when the repentant young man finally returns home, he experiences quick forgiveness and is restored to his former position. Our patient, long-suffering Father waits for us to come to our senses and turn or return to Him. And when we do, He wraps us in His righteousness and calls us His own.
4. Psalm 23
Because the word love does not appear in the twenty-third Psalm, the chapter is an effective example of showing, not telling. David set his words to music and many of us have the lyrics committed to memory. He depicts God as a shepherd, a leader, a comforter, a protector, and a provider.
While occasions like Valentine’s Day put the focus on temporary gifts such as flowers, chocolates, and romantic dinners, the love language of the Bible appeals to us on a deeper level. Not just for a day or a season, but eternity.