Valentine’s Day is coming up in about a week. Like Halloween, it’s one of those non-holidays that different churches will handle differently. Some will have a Valentine’s banquet or a “True Love Waits” event for their youth, while others will simply ignore it completely. Our own church does not have anything planned but my wife and I met on Valentine’s Day so it will always be special to us. February 14th will be on a Sunday this year so like or it not there may be no escaping it completely at your Sunday church services. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are always on Sunday, and church folk sometimes disagree on how much of an effect those days should have on worship. Whatever you add to the program, I always encourage pastors to make sure they preach the Gospel. Even if your allotted time is shortened, that’s all the more reason to make it count.
These days celebrate different types of relationships we are part of. God is very interested in our relationship with him. We are given many different images and symbols in the Bible that help us understand what God is like, what the Kingdom is like, what Jesus does for us and the importance of finding salvation. The reason so many illustrations are necessary is that we cannot actually understand the love God. He loved us while we were still sinful and unlovable. All of the different aspects of relationships between people teach us something different of what our relationship to God is like.
The first institution in the Bible, long before the church, is marriage. The idea that “biblical marriage” could be a lot of different things is ridiculous. Critics of the Bible claim that it could mean a man, several wives and hundreds of concubines. They also claim that Jesus never addressed the Christian concept of biblical marriage. Jesus had harsh words in Mark 7 for people that are quick to honor the traditions of man rather than the commandments of God. Multiple wives, concubines, dowry prices etc. that you may find in the Old Testament were the established traditions of man. The Bible defines marriage in Genesis 2 – which Jesus quotes in the New Testament – by saying “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
Marriage is used throughout the Bible to illustrate the covenant relationship between God and humankind. Marriage should be more than a contract; it is the closest thing we have today to a covenant. When God enters into a covenant, he promises that he will do certain things, such as be our God. It’s not an “if/then” relationship defined by a contract. The Bible also uses the relationship of father to child, mother to child, child to parent and even those between siblings to help us understand God in ways that we can relate to. Marriage that created families was God’s plan from the beginning. We may tire of hearing political candidates talk about family values, but God values family very much.
We often hear about God the heavenly Father. Matthew and Luke record Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, asking “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus expresses motherly love in that instance. He later describes his followers as more than servants, more than brothers; he calls them his friends. Jesus not only preached that we should love our enemies; he demonstrated that kind of love when he prayed for the very people that were crucifying him. He set the bar pretty high but we are commanded to have that kind of love for one another!
Another relationship described in the Bible comes from adoption. Jesus gave his own life so that we can be adopted into his family as sons and daughters of Father God. Believers are brothers and sisters to one another in the faith, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We live in a world that is fallen and broken, and sometimes marriages and even whole families fall apart. Perhaps some cannot understand what we are saying about the love of a father or mother. Adoption is a very biblical concept, and one way of putting back right what sometimes goes wrong in this world. God bless those parents with enough love to adopt a child.