By Mike Leake, Crosswalk.com
I wanted to start this article by saying something like, “We all enjoy a good love story.” But I’m not sure that we do. Maybe we’ve been jaded by the faux-love of Hollywood. Or the real thing—or what should have been the real thing—left us battered and bruised instead of free and flourishing.
Maybe “Love Hurts” is your anthem more than “Endless Love”. You’re one who, like Foreigner, still “Want to Know What Love Is”. Or you’re trying to get through life distanced from love, and yet everybody, especially in February, keeps talking about love. Ugh, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” you are wondering.
Yet, as a believer, you know that we are created for love. Yes, this “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. No matter where you are in your journey of love, you can take encouragement from these love stories of the Bible. In fact, I’d argue that the whole story of the Bible is the greatest love story ever told.
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The Foundation of Love: The Story of Adam and Eve
Okay, this one doesn’t exactly end the greatest. But it does provide us with the basis of relationships. The story of Adam and Eve is a reminder that love is God’s idea. Not just love between God and humanity—but love for our fellow people.
God makes a point of Adam’s incompleteness apart from Eve. Solitude is not what is best for humanity. There is no way that Adam can carry out his single-handedly complete his task of being an image-bearer of a communal God without Eve. Eve is a gift—a perfect counterpart and companion for him.
This divine act of creation sets the stage for the sacred union between Adam and Eve. The two experience a pure and untainted love, unburdened by the brokenness that would later enter the world. In their blissful existence within the garden, Adam and Eve share a unique bond. It is one that every couple would hope to recreate. A relationship of harmony and deep love. They share a common purpose and goal. Both united to enjoy God’s grace and to extend His glory. This sets the foundation for every other love story. We are all trying to get back to the Garden.
For more on the meaning of their relationship: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/what-does-it-and-does-not-mean-that-woman-was-made-as-a-suitable-helper.html
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Love and Covenant: The Story of Abraham and Sarah
This love story is a little awkward. At one point in their relationship, Abraham allowed his wife, Sarah, to enter into the harem of Pharaoh. Abraham was afraid that the beautiful Sarah would cause Pharaoh to kill him and take her. Rather than doing this, he decided to lie and say she was his sister. In other words, “she’s available”. That’s hardly the makings of a beautiful story of romance.
It only gets more complex when Sarah comes up with her own plan. The couple had been told by God that even though they were well beyond child-bearing years—they would be blessed with a son. When the promise seemed slow in coming Sarah suggested that her husband impregnant their servant Hagar. Sarah then treated the maid harshly and kicks the pregnant girl to the curb.
When the couple is pushing 100, God appears again and reminds them of his covenant. Sarah eventually does have a son (Isaac). The promised Messiah will come through Abraham and Sarah, and God has fulfilled the promises he made to Abraham in Genesis 12. But what a bumpy road it was.
The pain and shame of barrenness in that culture would have been enough to carry the story. But the lying and bad decisions with long-lasting consequences would have also taken a toll on their marriage. Not to mention the toll Abraham’s crazy idea to follow an unknown God into an unknown destination might have had on their relationship. But through it all, they stuck together. They, the ones whom the covenant of promise came through, model covenant dedication.
Their story is a reminder of God’s faithfulness even when we aren’t faithful. But their love and dedication also show us how God can bring beauty out of ashes and redeem our foolish choices. There is something beautiful about sticking together through the difficult times.
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Loyal Love: Ruth and Boaz
One of the best love stories in the Old Testament is the story of Ruth and Boaz. But we cannot fully understand this story until we consider the “love” story between Ruth and Naomi. Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law. Both her sons die and leave Ruth and Orpah as widows. And Naomi—a widow herself—has nothing to give to them. She will return to her hometown and encourages Ruth and Orpah to break ties and remarry for their own security. Ruth refuses and pledges her devotion to Naomi and to God’s people.
The Hebrew word khesed, a love that refuses not to love, is pronounced throughout the book. Ruth’s commitment to Naomi isn’t grounded in what Naomi can do for her. It’s a reflection of Ruth’s own heart and character. It is this depth of character that will later attract Boaz. Boaz is the bloodline where he is able to redeem the story. He can provide rescue for Ruth.
The love which Ruth showed Naomi is now given to her through Boaz. He redeems her. And he gives the same khesed which marked Ruth. This is a picture of God’s covenant love with us. In fact, it’s a word that appears in another love story—that of Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer. It hardly registers in our minds as a love story. But it is this covenant loyalty that has Hosea buying back his wayward and adulterous wife—all of this a reflection of God’s khesed toward his adulterous bride.
The story of Ruth and Boaz is a tale of loyalty, kindness, and redemption. This dedication and loyalty to one another is the mark of biblical love. It serves as an encouragement that God is able to redeem the brokenness of any story. God is dedicated to our redemption, and he often provides people in our lives as a reflection of his loyalty to us. Are there people in your life who are pictures of this love?
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Ultimate Love: Christ and the Church
At this point, I feel like the author of Hebrews in chapter 11. After mentioning all those who exemplified faith, the author says, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of…” Here, we could include Hosea and Gomer, Priscilla and Aquilla, Paul and the churches, the Song of Solomon, Jacob and Rachel, Isaac and Rebekah, and on and on we could go. But all of these point to the greatest love story—the one that is the theme of the entire book, namely, the love story of Christ and the church.
Sadly, Ephesians 5:21-33 has become a controversial passage. When we talk about things like submission and gender roles, we tend to get all worked up. And I get it. Verses like this can be used to do harm instead of help. Some of these words become “dirty” words because of how wicked people have wielded them. However, this is an absolutely beautiful passage. The marriage relationship that Paul paints here is one that I think every spouse would love to walk in. (Some of us, by the grace of God, get pretty close).
Paul’s aim in that passage, though, isn’t about marriage as much as it is about Christ. At the end of this passage, Paul is turning all the household codes onto its head. The relationship that Christ has with His bride is the one which all others are patterned after. Marital love, and every other form, is but a shadowy reflection of the love of Christ for us.
Christ is that perfect husband. Everything that the husband should be doing, Christ is doing and has done. Christ has given Himself up for his bride. He died to redeem her. His bride was dead, enslaved, and under the wrath of God. Rather than leave her there, he rescued her. It’s rather graphic, but more than likely, Paul had Ezekiel 16 in his mind when he wrote this. Go read that and come back….
If you read Ezekiel 16, now that this is precisely what the Lord has done with us. We were helpless and hopeless, and he has showered his love upon us, covered us, cleaned us up, and adorned us with beauty. Because Christ is a good husband, everything you see in this text is something Christ is doing or has already done. These are sure things.
- We will be sanctified—set apart.
- We will be cleansed
- We will be washed by the gospel
- We will be presented in splendor
- We will not have a spot or wrinkle
- We will be holy and without blemish (blameless)
- We are nourished by Christ
- We are cherished by Christ
- We are members of his body
- We are in a vital union with Christ in such a way that whatever He has, we have (he has taken our debt upon himself, and we have inherited his holiness)
And that, friends, is the greatest love story ever told.
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