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Flood Waters Cannot Drown Love

Monday 11 September 2017 at 02:54 am.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for September 7, 2017, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            On the table next to where I sit, I keep a small book of Christian devotions, and it’s my custom to just pick it up and let it open where it may. Many times I am surprised at the relevance of the randomly chosen devotion and Scripture text.

            The morning after Hurricane Harvey made landfall at Rockport, the little book opened to a devotion based on Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) 8:7: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” The verse pulled my thoughts into the reality of a Category 4 hurricane smashing into the Texas Coast.

            Here are some thoughts the text from Song of Songs triggered in my mind.

            Song of Songs, broadly speaking, is about God’s love for His church. More specifically, the Song symbolizes God’s grace in His love for His covenant people Israel and Jesus’ love for His Bride, the Church.

            So what we are talking about here is the unconditional love of God, expressed in New Testament Greek as agape. Agape describes the incredible love Christ has for His people by dying on the cross for us while we were still sinners. At the same time God loves us so unconditionally, He also calls us to obedience. Martin Luther said that where there is obedience and good-governing, there God dwells. Our love for God and for each other should be modeled after Christ’s love. This fact makes the Bride and Bridegroom analogy/allegory/symbolism even more significant.

It’s not by accident that the most frequently chosen Bible text for weddings is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. The love described in this text is agape, and it is the kind of love we should express to our bride or groom, as well as the love we are to show toward one another.

            Here’s what the Apostle Paul says in that text: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

            This is the kind of love God has for us, and it’s the kind of love we should have for one another.

            I am writing this column before Harvey disappeared completely. At the moment, he is about to reenter the Gulf. Thus there is still a great deal of anxiety in the hearts of most people, as they watched the vicious hurricane cause destruction, and as its extended bands caused historic flooding in the Houston area, and continues to do so at the moment. Many of us, as Harvey’s effects have worsened, may be thinking, ‘God must not love us.’ But the text says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”

            God’s love hasn’t gone anywhere, it never left us even during the most harrowing moments of the storm. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called for His purpose.” I don’t know what good will come of Harvey’s devastating visit to our Coast, but I am convinced we will experience that good, because it is a promise. God’s love never fails us.

            We love one another because God first loved us. This Christ-like love, this agape, was seen so frequently during the storm’s destructiveness and extensive flooding, and is still being seen, because love is found in the actions of people.

            Throughout this disaster and continuing now, we have seen so many examples of agape, both at the local level and everywhere else where there are folks in need. In our community, one church opened its doors as a shelter for those losing their dwelling place during a tornado. The women from another church cooked meals for that shelter. We have seen it in the willingness of volunteers, including youth volunteers, to move furniture and other belongings. We have seen it in the bringing of food and helping displaced persons, and the local agape list goes on and on.

            From here to Houston to the coastal communities, we have seen the dangerous rescue work of first responders. We have seen the rescue of elderly folks from a flooded nursing home. We have seen volunteers carrying children through high water and helping stranded motorists reach safety. We have seen area volunteers using their own boats to help the stranded, and the list continues to grow.

            We have seen help coming from the Harris County Sheriff’s office, from the National Guard, the Red Cross, from the Arizona Task Force 1, from the New York City Task Force, from the HEB disaster relief convoy, from volunteers from Oklahoma, from the “Cajun Navy” convoy of boats from our Louisiana neighbors, and the list continues to grow. Love is seen coming from all directions.

            God never stops loving us. And we must never stop loving one another. Loving one another by our actions is answering God’s call to obedience to love. It’s mind-boggling to comprehend the many acts of loving one another during these horrible days of Harvey.

-0-

Ray Spitzenberger has retired after serving as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, for 28 years, teaching in high school for 9 years and at Wharton County Junior College for 22 years.

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