By Sigrid Fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about love and what the Bible says about it. However the subject strikes you, whatever the context—be it cultural milieu, historical manifestation, or treatment by way of your favorite art form—one generality can unquestionably be made: Love involves persons—in the plural. I’m not thinking about self-love, an entirely different category, and I don’t mean something like, “I love chocolate.”
Love involves people, more than one of us. The verb to love is usually transitive, it takes an object, it implies arecipient: Who or what? But to love can be used in the passive voice—I am loved, e.g., putting the action on somebody else’s side. Love is something we do, or in the passive voice, something we happily receive from another’s action. The appeal of love is universal, it seems, and may be one reason the Gabby Petito case is still riveting the attention of the country. Eventually commentators get around to the love story, first appealingly illustrated on social media then startlingly and sadly reported by newsrooms as the storydeveloped, nationally and internationally. Love . . . what is it really all about?
Love is a constant biblical topic, addressed both directly and indirectly. It seems to touch all the biblical forms—history, hymnody, prophetic writing, and teachings of the Hebrew wise. The Song of Songs is all about love. Love is a factor in the notorious choices of Israel’s most well-known rulers and judges. Remember Samson and Delilah? David and Bathsheba? What about Jezebel and Ahab? One thing that brought down the world’s wisest man was a wrong-headed view of both marriage and worship—love of one’s spouse and love of God—which Solomon oddly redefined, joining himself to a thousand pagan women. He was persuaded tobuild temples to fit their worship back home and in this way presented before the nation a disastrous model of idolatry. It’s hard to understand how the same king could compose the opening chapters of the Book of Proverbs, a long warning about what happens when the real meaning of love is put aside. As striking as these examples of love gone wrong seem, they are only a part of what the Bible says about love.
The story of Job begins as a challenge by God’s adversary, and at the heart of the accusation is a question about love. No human will love you, Satan asserts, unless you pay them with benefits. Job proves him wrong. Recall the love Queen Esther demonstrates—for her people, for the king she honors but challenges, and for Mordechai, who raised her and starts her on the perilous project of saving the Hebrew people. Love is the breathtaking theme of the Book of Ruth, which ends with the genealogy of the “man after God’s own heart,” the shepherd who would become Israel’s greatest king. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who anointed Israel’s first kings, demonstrates the love of a mother—as does Jochebed, the mother of Moses, who posted Miriam to watch the beloved child she was relinquishing to the mercy of God and the currents of the Nile. The love of friends shines in the David-Jonathan stories. That David loved his sovereign is also clear in his refusal to harm God’s anointed; King Saul was even then seeking his life. The proverbs often illustrate love of one’s neighbor, our family as well as others—ethical practices, the daily ordering of a household, healthy choices about eating, drinking, sleep, work, and relaxation. All of it can honor God. The worshiper, an appointed steward, is grateful to the Giver of all things—financial means, skills, guidance through life, health and peace, every breathe. Love is evident in all.
The gospel brings the love story of the Bible to its glorious climax. We find a God who loved desperate, failing, unhappy, and sin-wrecked humans so much that he was willing to give his own Son to fix the mess. But it was not just the Son of Man, it was God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the one God we worship, God himself, whosuffered at Calvary and brought about our redemption. And God, who began it all, brought about a new creation, Paul tellsthe Corinthian Christians ( 2 Cor 5: 17). The culmination of the biblical love story, the finale, is a wedding feast, the ultimate celebration of Jesus’ saving work and our deliverance. Thanks be to God, who loved us so much!