With February comes Valentine’s Day. The holiday is, of course, a celebration of love. Along with all the cards, e-messages, flowers, chocolates, candied hearts, and other gifts, comes the danger of participating in the world’s definition of love. To clarify “worldly” we could also use “society’s definition” or “sinful definition.” In other words, we mean the definition of love that does not reflect God’s righteousness as expressed in His Holy Word, the Bible.
In many ways, the worldly definition of love reflects God’s definition. How could it not, to some degree. We are God’s creatures, and He is the author of love. The world says that we are to care for one another, do good to one another, treat one other with respect. Certainly Jesus presented these ideas during His earthly ministry.
What Is Love?
The breakdown occurs when we consider the less pleasant aspects of love. We will focus on three: boundaries, confrontation, and accountability.
Society teaches that any type of relationship is valid as long as both parties are consenting and “love” exists between them. Society also teaches that we are never to confront another regarding his or her behavior as long they are not “hurting” anyone else. By this definition, we are accountable to no one, as long as we do not break the law. In other words, the world says that love is primarily acting benevolently and allowing others the freedom to do whatever they wish. Consider this passage from 2 Timothy 4:3: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
God places boundaries on love. A dating couple may find great joy in each other’s company. However, any type of sexuality must wait for marriage. Men and women may have deep, committed friendships, but such relationships between men and women may not involve romance or sexuality. When a man and woman marry, they are to form a new family, separated from their respective families of origin.
Contrary to the often misused words of our Lord from Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged,” God is quite clear that we are to hold one another accountable and to confront when necessary. With regard to the role of law, Romans chapter thirteen, verse 4, reads, For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain." God further teaches in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, chapter three, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (v. 16).
Teaching about God's Love
The central breakdown between God's definition of love and the world’s is that the sinful notion removes God. This perverts love into a justification for permissiveness and gratification. I would suggest three goals in teaching God’s definition of love in the Sunday School setting:
1. Emphasize that God’s love is the only love, that this love is defined in the Bible. In other words, if human beings want to understand love, we must learn it from God Himself.
2. Help students to understand that acting outside of God’s definition of love is an offense primarily against God, and only secondarily to other people. When a child steals from his classmate, he is hurting God most of all. On the other hand, when the same student shares glue during a craft, he is glorifying God even more than blessing the other student. Stress this in lessons and as real-life opportunities present themselves.
3. Accentuate God’s selflessness as the primary example of His love, as expressed in Jesus Christ. The Lord demonstrates that the true nature of love is not permissiveness or self-fulfillment, but rather humility and self-sacrifice for the good of others. In love, Jesus obeyed His Father. In love, Jesus resisted temptation. In love, Jesus suffered innocently and died to pay for our sins.
Lesson and Craft Ideas
Here are a few lesson and craft ideas to teach godly love during the month of February and throughout the year.
- Develop a wall chart of the Ten Commandments. Leave space beneath each one. Over the course of ten weeks, ask students to give examples of how God loves us through the Ten Commandments. For example, as we obey our parents, they are better able to care for us. Help students to understand that rules and boundaries are expressions of God’s love.
- Wrap two or three empty boxes as gifts for Valentine’s Day. In one box, place a crown of thorns. In another, place large nails, such as might have been used to crucify Jesus. In a third, place a piece of paper on which is written “Sin.” Pretend that as a class you are gifting Jesus for Valentine’s Day. As you open each gift for Jesus, explain that in our disobedience, we give Jesus the crown of thorns, the nails, and our sin. Prepare three more similar boxes. In these, place items that represent forgiveness in Jesus, such as a king’s crown, a white robe, or even the words forgiveness, everlasting life, righteousness, or others. These are Jesus’ Valentine’s Day gifts to us.
- Instead of purchasing premade Valentine’s Day cards that highlight movie characters or television personalities, help students create their own Valentine’s Day cards. Inside, students can write Bible verses that emphasize God’s love. Google and Biblegateway.com are great tools for locating such verses ahead of time. Encourage students to make a list of possible recipients. This could also be an effective outreach activity.
Above all, share the joy you have each day knowing God’s love in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.