“Love is a Many-Splendored Thing”

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tuesday of this week was Valentine’s Day and our thoughts turned to love. Perhaps a well-chosen card, a box of chocolates, flowers, dinner and a movie, or just a quiet evening at home and some quality time spent with your loved one characterized your observance of the day. This emphasis on love set me to thinking on the subject.

Years ago I studied New Testament Greek in college and seminary. Regrettably I was not as diligent a student as I should have been, reminding me of the Pennsylvania German adage, “We get too soon old and too late smart.” So, I make no claim to have mastered Biblical Greek. However, I did pay close enough attention in class to enable me to use a Greek lexicon and to read the Greek New Testament with the aid of an interlinear.

A feature of the Greek language is its ability to convey in one word what it takes a context in the English language to express. I’m thinking particularly of the word love. We use the word in a variety of ways, and it requires a context to know how it’s being used.

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In the Greek there are three words for love, two of which appear in the Greek New Testament. These two words occur in the exchange between Jesus and Peter and are found in John 21:15-17. One is a friendly, familial, tender affection. The City of Philadelphia takes its name from this word and another meaning brother, and so is the City of Brotherly Love. The other word for love denotes a sacrificial love, an unfailing good will. This is the love that God has for us.

John in his first epistle writes of God’s sacrificial love and unfailing good will.

“To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in the fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10, The New Testament in Modern English).

In the light of such love as God has for us, what can we give to God in return that may in some way be worthy of such a sacrifice?

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all” (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, stanza four). And thus do we respond to God’s love, not out of obligation, but out of love for love.

Furthermore, this love, says John, which is characteristic of God, should characterize us in our loving also (1 John 4:11).  And so we strive in that regard to be as we should be toward one another, as channels through which His unfailing good will flows out into the world.

Love is indeed “a many-splendored thing.”

Dr. Darryl E. Maxwell, Retired Baptist Pastor