george hancock stefanAs pastors, we are often blessed to hear love stories. In the Baptist tradition, when people join our church they tell us how they came to love Christ, which we call the story of their conversion. In the book of Revelation we read about the believer’s first love (Rev. 2:4), and new members, young and old have this passionate, effervescent love for Christ. Likewise in pre-marital counseling, I am blessed to hear the love stories of how the two people fell in love with one another. It is a delight to listen to the love stories of couples who grew up in the same neighborhood or school and to hear how one person knew from childhood that they would marry each other. From the love stories of those who have been together as soon as their parents allowed them to get married to those whose first or second marriage were difficult and now they have fallen in love, it is surprising to see how love comes and changes all of us.

The book of Genesis has many love stories in a context that was very rough and one can say foreign to where we are today. Nevertheless, we can say that the first love story was the time when Adam’s eyes fell on Eve because she was the perfect creature of God. Later on we move to Rebekah, whose beauty is described in the Scripture. Her presence comforted Isaac. We learn about the love that Jacob had for Rachel and his 7 years of labor were fleeting because he loved her. In the polygamist system of that day is great to see the one husband/one wife commitment of Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rachel, Joseph and Asenath, and Boaz and Rachel.

Surprisingly for some people, the Bible also has a whole book of love stories called the Song of Songs. The interpretations of this book have been multiple, but the simplest is always to say that it is the story about two people who have fallen in love. That it can be interpreted at many levels is not questioned as long as the primary meaning is allowed.

For me the dominant Old Testament love story is God’s love story with Israel. In Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Hosea, God describes his courtship with Israel, using words that we are not used to hearing God speak. “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough to love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine” (Ez. 16:8). Jeremiah is even more poetic (romantic) when he writes, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2). And in the words of Hosea, “I will betroth you to me forever, I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20). All three prophets talk about how God was in love with His bride, the people of Israel.

It is this language of love and weddings that we find in so many actions of Jesus Christ. His first miracle is at the wedding in Cana, as He was invited to celebrate a love story. He tells some of his parables in wedding terminologies, including the wedding banquet (Mt. 22:1-13) and the parable of the ten virgins invited to a wedding (Mt. 25:1-13). The Gospels conclude with the greatest story of them all – the love of Jesus for the church. Jesus Christ loved the church and He gave His life for the redemption of each person in it. John, the author of Revelation hears these words, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready… Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19: 7, 9). Then, the greatest love story ever to be written will begin.