Devotional: Loving God

Published 5:44 pm Saturday, February 17, 2024

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“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” — NRS Genesis 3:19

These words are spoken to Adam and Eve after they sinned and were removed from the Garden of Eden. On Wednesday, February 14, they were spoken in many sanctuaries around the world as they were marked with ashes as a sign that we too understand we have fallen. It was the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of reflection about our relationship with God. 

As most realize, it was also Valentine’s Day, the day we set aside to celebrate loving relationships in our life. Strangely, in the days running up to the 14th, I had several people ask if we were really going to observe Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day. While this might seem a bit of a strange intersection of the Christian Church’s calendar and our secular calendar, I think that if I ruled the world it just might be a yearly occurrence. “Why?” you may ask. Because truthfully, nothing says, “I love you” more than God’s reaction to human sinning. 

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Yes, I do recall that these words from God came as Adam and Eve are being ejected from the paradise of Eden. I understand that God was pronouncing how much more difficult life they, and all humanity, would have from that point forward. Yes, artists throughout the ages have depicted Adman and Eve leaving Eden in agony and fear. So, how could this be a loving act?

In short, we all learn from this story that even with the greatest of love, there are boundaries, lines we cannot cross. To cross those lines is disrespectful and not loving. We also learn that while God expelled them from the Garden of Eden, God never stopped loving them. God gave them clothing and while not in paradise, they had a chance to survive and flourish. God could have easily eliminated creation, including humanity, but did not do so. God continued to love them even after their transgression. 

To me, this is the greatest love story ever. A perfect God, loving a rebellious, sinful humanity even as they sin. This love is not about a feeling, it is about caring endlessly. 

I still say, “Nothing says I love you more than ashes”.

Keith Leach is Pastor of College Church and College Chaplain at Hampden-Sydney College. He can be reached at