Dr. Albert Palmer was the minister of Central Union Church of Honolulu, Hawaii. While serving there he oversaw a massive building project for their church. Just before its completion, the architect asked Palmer to provide him with an inscription to be placed high in the chancel above the pulpit and communion table. "I want you to give me a text of no more than sixteen letter or spaces to fit in that particular space," he said. Palmer pondered over what text to use which would have just the right number of letters and yet would be appropriate for all occasions. It would have to be appropriate at weddings and funerals, for worship services and baptisms, for every season of the year. Additionally, since Hawaii is a place where many races meet, the text had to speak to people of all backgrounds; Hawaiian, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese and American. So with all those varying needs in mind, Palmer chose these sixteen letter and spaces, "LOVE NEVER FAILS".
People from various situations may visualize love in different aspects, but there are two portraits of love that outshines them all.
I. Love is a Beautiful Emotion
A. Love of a Man to a Woman (a woman to man)
All human beings have an innate tendency to love the opposite sex. We are made to have and to hold somebody with us. The man is for the woman and the woman is for the man. No union outside that structure is God-ordained.
1) Man’s Ways in expressing his love -
When we were younger, we exude various signs of being in love. Some people become extremely self-conscious, even putting mirrors all around their rooms. Others surprisingly become astoundingly thoughtful for the object persons of their love.
2) Man’s Words in expressing his love -
Eventually, upon feeling the first brunt of love-strike, we begin to articulate some words that would convey the message "I love you". Common words become meaningful as the emotion of love colors them – "take care", "how’s your day", and many more. Words that we use in everyday conversations become messages of emotions. They become evolution of the magic words "I love you".
B. Love of God to Men
God has the most amazing love, and the object of His love is the world. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life".
1) God’s Ways in expressing His love -
The prime gesture of God’s love is in giving His Son, who was born in a manger in Bethlehem. It is God, in a bodily form, taking the form of humanity, so He can take us back to himself. God expressed his love towards men in ways that man will never comprehend with his limited reason and understanding.
2) God’s Words in expressing His love -
God’s love was expressed in words that men can never match – words of guidance, "go and sin no more", words of deliverance, "father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing", words of assurance, "today you will be with me in paradise."
C. Love of Men to God
The simply irresistible love of God, which is supposed to be received with reverent appreciation by men, has been treated and regarded as so simple to be realistic.
1) The Ways of expressing man’s no-love
Instead of reciprocating the amazing love of God with contrite awe, man has continually mocked God’s love by his constant rejection. Not many people of today’s generation understand the greatness of God’s love.
2) The Words of expressing man’s no-love
Just listen to what people would say when you share to them the love of God. Man no longer, with faith and respect, articulates the love of God with words of awe.
A man and wife, already senior citizens, are spending the remaining days of their lives alone in a wealthy neighborhood several miles outside a big city. They live in an exquisitely and fully-furnished five-bedroom, four-bathroom, and four-car-garage house, equipped with anti-burglar alarms and monitors. An Escalade and a Lexus LS430 are parked in their garage. Quarters for a private nurse, two housemaids and a driver are at few steps away from the backdoor. Their three children have gotten married and are having families of their own. One night, as they lounge on their king size bed, the woman recalled something; she said to her husband, "Your love has grown cold! You used to be very romantic, gently biting my earlobes while softly fidgeting my nose before we sleep. These days, you never even incline the side of your face to mine. You don’t dare touch my face before we sleep. You have changed!" The man answered grumpily, "These days, you never ran out of complaints", as he promptly got up from bed and quickly budge into the bathroom. The woman blurted, "See, you easily get irritated with the truth, and what do you think you’re going to do in the bathroom?" The man answered, "Give me a second, I’m going to put my teeth (false teeth) on so that I can bite your earlobes all over again."
God is the author of our emotions. Although love, in the Bible, is more than an emotion, we still have to show our love in an emotional manner. For it is in our emotion that we can enjoy the blessings of love, joy and peace. Is our love characterized with excitement?
II. Love is a Powerful Devotion
A. Love of a Man to a Woman (woman to a man)
As love grows in a person’s emotion, such feeling transforms into a solid devotion. In the course of time, the feeling of being in love will no longer be an emotional issue. It becomes a commitment or devotion.
1) The Will of a Man in loving a Woman -
Feelings change as situations unfold. Frictions take their course and confrontations become a part of marriage life. Love becomes a matter of the will, rather than feelings. This is unavoidably true in a couple’s marriage life.
2) The Wisdom of a Man in loving a Woman -
Devotion to love is better and more profitable to the lover and the loved if it is expressed with a godly wisdom – wisdom under the guidance of the word of God. A strong commitment to love a person should not, in any case, result to the predicament of the one who is loved. Sometimes, in a short while, it seems deprivation to the lover, but in the end it will be for the benefit of both the lover and the beloved.
B. Love of God to Men
God’s love to men, the dying sin-wrecked humanity, is the most awesome of all. It is an unconditional love – it doesn’t oblige anyone to reciprocate. It is simply a unilateral decision of God to love, for God is love, in His very nature.
1) The Will of God in loving us -
Jesus had a choice when He was in the garden of Gethsemane but He chose to give it all. Even those who profess to have received by faith the love of God often fail to exhibit the fruits of their love. Yet, even in those situations, God’s love never fails. The faithfulness of God to love us lies on His very nature, not on the degree of man’s performance.
2) The Wisdom of God in loving us -
He became poor for us to become rich; he became weak for us to become strong; he died for us to live. God’s wisdom seems foolishness to man but it is for the best of man that God loved us in His own way – lofty and divine. God is so devoted in loving us that when Eve had the first bite of the forbidden fruit, God already took the first step in His devotion to save us by sending His Son.
C. Love of Man to God
It must have been frustrating to see the ingratitude of man to the love of God. Many people in the world continue to reject the gift and the message of God brought by the angels on Christmas night – glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and goodwill towards men. The cross of Calvary has been taken as an ordinary, sometimes insignificant, part of history.
1) The Will of a Man in loving God -
After all of what God did to show His love, man’s will is seared to focus on his self without any regard to the love of God. Even those who profess to have received by faith the love of God often fail to reflect the true radiance of love. Man can never equal the devotion of God to love us.
2) The Wisdom of a Man in Loving God -
Wisdom is applied knowledge. As we understand the depth of God’s love, we need to live at peace even under the odd circumstances. Wisdom is to look ahead to the sovereign plan of God behind all our lives’ situations.
An Italian, in his late 60’s lived alone in New Jersey suburb. He was a widower who had a son. They were both committed to love each other regardless of any situation that would come their way; regardless of any condition their lives would face. The son was, one day, convicted for a crime and he was jailed. While serving his sentence, the father who was left home alone wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was to him a very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, used to help him. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
Dear Vincent, I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig up the ground for me, like in the old days. Love, Papa
A few days later the father received a letter from his son: Dear Pop, Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried. Love, Vincent
At 4:00 A.M. the next morning, detective agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.
The same day, the man received another letter from his son:
Dear Papa, Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances. I love you Papa, Vincent
Love is not just a wonderful feeling. A higher degree of love is that it is a powerful devotion – a commitment to love regardless of the situation, and irrespective of our emotional condition. If we were to evaluate the level of our devotion to love, can we rate it satisfactory or plainly below average?
If we truly love God, we must show excitement in attending church worship services, for it is a beautiful feeling. Also, we must stand tough in times of adversity, for our love to God is a powerful devotion.