Place me like a seal over your heart,Song of Songs 8:6-7
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
Have you ever considered that Jesus could have chosen to be popular with more or less everyone? The people loved him for his miracles, his works of power, and his fearless teaching – but if he’d just kept to healing six days a week, and not challenged some of the practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he might never have become unpopular – and the authorities wouldn’t have sought to have him crucified. He’d probably be looked back on by history as a kind of supercharged Mother Theresa character – always doing good, showing kindness and love, and performing miracles too.
And we would still be dead in our sins.
It’s not helpful to dwell too long on hypothetical scenarios like this, but in this case it illustrates a key truth about God’s love: because God is strong and secure, so is his love. Jesus chose to be misunderstood and rejected by many in order to truly do us good, rather than to please people, be universally adored, and leave us helpless to the slavery of sin. The Bible is full of both encouragements and warnings, precisely because God’s love is strong – his greatest desire is to do us good, not to give the impression of doing us good.
What does this look like in our lives? How can we be imitators of God? Firstly, we need to embrace all of God’s messages to us. As we read the Scriptures, some words are like comforting balm, while others are disquieting or directly challenging – but if by faith we believe that God is always perfectly loving, we can welcome those passages too, and allow them to work in our lives.
And when it comes to our relationships with others, it may mean gently and humbly challenging a friend, colleague or relative, at the risk of being rejected or misunderstood, with the goal of doing them good. If our hearts are set on loving others, and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we can – in a very small way – love like Jesus does. His love is strong, unyielding, unquenchable: let’s seek to be strong in our love too.
Love […] does not dishonour others, nor is it self-seeking […] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13:5-8