How to Find True Love in the Bible

Five Thoughts for Valentine’s Day

Cynics might suppose that Valentine’s Day was created by a cabal of greeting card publishers, florists and chocolatiers. But, no, there really was a Saint Valentine who was martyred for his Christian faith on one February 14 in the third century. He was known for officiating at Christian weddings—hence the connection with romantic love. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer mentioned a feast day in his honor, though he may have made that up. Still, we now have this holiday, named for a Christian saint, that’s all about love.

Hmmm, does the Bible have anything to say about love?

1. Love is the most important thing.

When Jesus was asked to name the most important commandment, he identified the top two: Love the Lord; Love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). “The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments” (v. 40). Later he gave this “new commandment” to his disciples: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” This love would be the distinguishing mark of Jesus’ followers (John 13:34-35).

The New Testament epistles pick up the theme. “Love is the fulfilling of the Law” (Romans 13:10 NIV; see also 1 John 4:16). And who can forget the poetic opening of 1 Corinthians 13, declaring that “I am nothing” without love?

2. Love may be our culture’s “unknown God.”

When a halftime show ends with the crowd spelling out “Believe in Love,” that could be an inspiring moment . . . and also a challenging one. Love may be the “unknown God” of our culture, similar to what Paul encountered in Athens—and we can learn from the apostle’s approach (see Acts 17:16-34). He affirmed the Athenians, quoted their own pop songs (or at least their poets), and challenged them to learn more about a God who could be known.

Can we leverage our culture’s affirmation of “love” to convey what true love really is?

3. The Bible defines love, again and again.

“This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for others!” (1 John 3:16). Scripture repeatedly defines love on two levels: between God and us, and between us and others. “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

But there is no shortage of specific guidance about love. We get a whole menu in 1 Corinthians 13—“Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs” (vs. 4-5). And it goes on. Also check out the teachings in Romans 12, Colossians 3, and all of 1 John.

4. People are looking for true love.

Of course our pop songs and sitcoms often portray love in shallow ways. Love makes people feel good. And when you’ve “lost that lovin’ feeling,” you look for it elsewhere.

But let’s give our culture some credit for a deeper desire. At some level, people know that love needs to be more than a temporary high. They’re looking for a soul-to-soul connection, and maybe even commitment. They recognize—and long for—a meaningful love, not only in romantic relationships, but with family, friends, and in the community.

5. Can we become “love experts”?

We are being taught by the ultimate Lover. God’s love is “poured out into our hearts” (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit works within us to guide and empower our lives. We are called to live in love. And John wonders how we can claim to love God if we close our hearts to others. “Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action” (1 John 3:17-18).

Becoming love experts will demand more than gooey sentimentality. It’s the difficult business of listening to others, learning what they really need, and applying God’s resources to challenging situations. Can that become what we’re known for?

Bible engagement never stops with the knowledge of facts and ideas. It presses on to significant life change. And Scripture repeatedly invites us into a loving relationship with God, which plays out in loving actions toward others.

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