When I was thinking about Valentine's Day as a holiday and what I would write about, two main topics came to mind. Love and Covenant.
Love is something we all are familiar with. Whether in the context of romance and intimacy or in a platonic sense for a close friend or family member, love is something that touches all of our lives from the time we are children until the day we are laid into the ground. It is a fundamental human experience. Love is a very powerful emotion, both positive and negative. Wonderful and horrible things have been done in the name of love, from risking your own life to save someone you love to taking someone’s life in a crime of passion, love is extremely personal and has a powerful effect on all of us.
For this reason we are warned in scripture to not awaken love before it’s time.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.

Song of Solomon 8:4 ESV
Have you ever read a caution label on a bottle or in an instruction manual and thought, “They really had to write that one down? It seems so obvious.”  The warnings are there because people do stupid things and need to be reminded of what they should and should not do. Safety manuals have to be revised over and over because people keep coming up with new reasons to be warned.
So when Scripture gives us a warning, we should really pay attention. Whatever it is warning us against is what we are naturally bent towards. Our best efforts to harness love and wield it rightly are tainted by sin and fall short of perfection.
I want to look at the famous love passage in 1 Corinthians 13 and then focus one aspect of it.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV
There is a very clear theme that is at the core of not only these verses but all of chapter 13, and that is that love is fundamentally other-centered, as opposed to self-centered.
The Apostle Paul emphasizes this other-centered nature of love in verse 5 by telling us that love “does not insist on its own way”. He means that selfishness is in direct opposition to love. We must be careful here, because Paul is not condemning all concern for our own self-interest. Some may come across a text like this and begin to think that all forms of self-care and self-concern are wrong. This cannot be true because Scripture does teach a proper care and concern for one’s own self. We are told to be good stewards of our bodies.
I like how John Calvin explains in his commentary what the Apostle Paul means when he says that love does not seek its own way: 

Paul does not here reprove every kind of care or concern for ourselves, but the excess of it, which proceeds from an immoderate and blind attachment to ourselves. Now the excess lies in this—if we think of ourselves so as to neglect others, or if the desire of our own advantage calls us off from that concern, which God commands us to have as to our neighbors.

John Calvin

The problem in view is selfishness, not a legitimate self-interest. We must not care for ourselves in ways that take advantage of others. We are to care for ourselves in ways that enable us and equip us to do good to others. This is not an easy task. It’s actually impossible in our own strength. I think that is why Paul, when writing to the Ephesians, right before laying out the ways that husbands and wives are to submit to one another, leads with this instruction:

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:20-21 ESV

True love not only requires but demands that we submit to one another. Not only when we feel our spouse or our child or our friends or coworkers deserve our love.  We are to love others out of reverence for Christ. Loving others is not an option and is not up for negotiation. It is a command. And if we love Christ, then we will keep his commandments.


Today, in 2023, the option of living together with a significant other, instead of joining into a formal marriage covenant, has become much more accepted and is a common practice in our culture. Not only are many couples not willing to enter into a marriage, the very concept of what marriage is has been distorted. Society is not even clear about what the definition of a man or a woman is anymore. As Christians, we must be careful not to base our moral decisions on our society’s standards, especially when it comes to our perception of love and the institution of marriage. If we truly are Christians, then our conscience is not to be governed by what is socially acceptable or even by what is legal in man’s eyes, but ultimately by God’s word.
I am sure you have heard people say things like, “We are in love, why complicate it? Why do we have to sign a piece of paper to make it legal?”
The signing of a marriage certificate is an important part of what the Bible calls a covenant. A covenant is made publicly before witnesses and with formal legal commitments that are taken seriously by the community as a whole. Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the idea that whoever breaks the covenant would suffer a similar fate. That’s not a “pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken” to quote Mary Poppins. A covenant or a contract is a serious commitment.
God ordained certain rules regulating marriage in order to protect people. His law was given out of His love, concern, and compassion for His fallen creation. The boundaries God imposed on sexual activity outside marriage do not mean that God is a buzzkill or anti-human pleasure. Sex, in its proper context, is an amazing blessing that He Himself created and gave to the human race. So, He protects this special act of intimacy with certain safeguards.
We also see the covenant of marriage under attack when it comes to who marriage is designed for. No longer is it the gender binary of one woman and one man as Scripture clearly defines. Despite the what the culture we find ourselves in would say, God’s Word stands and cannot be changed, least of which by mere men. Far from being an evolving  cultural phenomenon, marriage is the means by which the creation mirrors the relationship between Jesus and His church.
The reason why divorce, adultery, spousal abuse, and neglect are so destructive is because of the unique way marriage is meant to reveal this Christ-church relationship. When we think of God as our Father we can tend to project our ideas of our own earthly fathers, and their failings, onto our Heavenly Father. In the same way, when we see failing marriages all around us, we can tend to project those views on the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. But we know as Christians, this is not the case. Just as our Heavenly Father is eternally good and righteous, the marriage covenant between Jesus and His bride is eternally unbreakable. Even when we are unfaithful, He is faithful.
So, as we celebrate the holiday that’s all about love, remember that, as Christians, we are to love and to keep our covenants of marriage, not just for our own benefit or for our spouse’s benefit, but out of reverence for and obedience to Christ.


Rob is a Barber and Co-Founder of Reformed Man as well as a worship leader at Community Baptist Church in Victoria, Tx. He is married with nine children. That is not a typo.