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Editor’s Note: With so many churches in our area having to suspend worship services during the coronavirus pandemic, we are asking local pastors to partner with us in bringing a daily message of hope and comfort to readers during this difficult time.

Love is the featured sentiment of February. With Valentine’s Day, Americans collectively spend approximately $25 billion each year. Most of the spending includes cards, candies, flowers, jewelry and dining out. If the amount spent means anything, then a lot of love is being shared. Yet true love has little to do with monetary expenditure. In fact, many who are beneficiaries of great expenditure remain deprived of, even starved for, the personal touch of love in their lives. To be sure, there is no shortage of people who would forfeit every penny for an encounter with love in their souls.

Indeed, loveless living is a human tragedy that is incompatible with God’s will for humanity. One insight about God’s will regarding love can be found in Song of Solomon 6:3. There a bride can be heard exclaiming, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” It’s a celebration of mutually shared love, in the context of marriage. Song of Solomon is a book of the Bible entirely devoted to the expression of love. And the expression is intended to represent the love shared between God and His people.

In the New Testament, Jesus is depicted as the Bridegroom and the Church as His bride. So the bridal proclamation in the Song of Solomon, in its fulfillment, is for the New Testament community of faith. It makes known the church’s soul-raptured realization that “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in Him” (1 John 4:16). The defining moment in that realization occurs upon understanding that God’s love went (or goes) first. The Apostle John says, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 1:19). And that is precisely what is revealed at the Cross.

Jesus Christ crucified for our sins is the supreme expression of God’s love — yes, God’s love going first. The Apostle Paul submits this concise summary: “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

“Even when” is our cue. It means that despite our depraved inability to initially love and live for God, He loved us first. His love ignites and inspires our love.

O to be loved! O to be loved first! O to be loved “even when!” It is the greatest experience of life. It is the most life-changing experience. That is why Paul resolutely determined to preach “nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The message of the Cross bears the “love song” of the bridegroom, Jesus, to His bride, the Church. The message heard breaks forth in believers as the joyous refrain: “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine!”

Ed Clevinger is minister of Grace Christian Church, Kingsport, Tennessee.

Ed Clevinger is minister of Grace Christian Church, Kingsport, Tennessee.