I’ve had a lot of thoughts about love recently, because of several factors. Namely because I’m engaged to be married in March, I’m taking a seminary class that is covering marriage and family, and Valentine’s Day just passed. With this “perfect storm” of love-related activities, my sensitivities to “love” in the world around me have been heightened!
For instance, I heard a brief portion of a song on the radio the other day that was celebrating the frivolous escapades of youth and it made me laugh at (and probably self-righteously judge) what many people label as “love.” The relationships I am talking about are not lasting. There is no real substance to them and definitely not any real commitment. And yet, the parties involved feel that their emotions are so strong and real that it must be true love!
I know that when I decided to propose it was because I had a peace and strong conviction that I was ready to commit my life to my now fiancée. It’s a choice, but it’s also a commitment (meaning the choice is a final say, not to be rescinded). I believe this mentality is lacking from most of the world today. Not that I’ve cornered the market on covenant-keeping, but I understand the theory of the responsibility.
In the class I’m taking that deals with marriage and family, an idea from Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage really stood out to me. Thomas writes that if a person ever says they cannot love their spouse any more, they are basically choosing disobedience to God’s commandments. In Scripture we read that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33) and we read how wives are to love their husbands. In addition to these direct remarks on marriage, my wise professor pointed out that ALL believers are called to love one another (1 John 4:7), their neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:31) and, even if the marriage is really in trouble, their enemies (Luke 6:35).
So love, for the Christian, is not an option. It’s a command. Even, or dare I say especially, in the marriage relationship, because it’s a vow made in the name of God Himself.
I hope I’m not talking out of turn because I’m inexperienced, but I hate to see broken marriages. I know that God is a God of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19), and He demonstrates this in His great plan of redemption for sinners. His love is not conditional (Psalm 100:5 & Romans 5:8). He is committed to loving us and desires that we commit to love others. He loves us when we don’t deserve it and we should love others in the same way.
I’ve heard of real-life couples where one spouse suffers a great tragedy and the other spouse chooses to either stay in or leave the relationship. In fact the recently released movie and preceding book, The Vow, are based on a real-life couple like that. You can see in the trailers that the husband commits to trying to save the relationship even though his wife doesn’t remember him. He commits to woo her again because he vowed to provide for and support her and love her. Apparently the real-life couple was really disappointed that their faith wasn’t highlighted or even mentioned in the film (WARNING, there are spoilers in this article).
There are other very strong examples on both sides of this. I know of people who have stood by their disabled spouses and some who have chosen not to. I can’t imagine being in their situations, but I am always encouraged by those who remain and disheartened by those who do not. I think those that stay very powerfully demonstrate the faithfulness of God by living out faithfulness on earth.
On a different note, too many people try to justify breaking their vows because they “fall out of love” or “drift apart.” But wedding vows shouldn’t be subject to those kinds of emotions or felt needs. They should be cemented in a commitment to love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).
It’s that overarching principle that supersedes the marriage relationship. Consider your “ability” to love others. Is there anyone in your life that you think you can’t love? Scripture doesn’t give us that option. This is particularly true within the Church (Galatians 6:10).
Think about this (and I know I’ve written this before):
If the Holy Spirit of God indwells every believer, how can He NOT get along with Himself? God has given us a spirit of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). If we find ourselves “incapable” of love, then, it’s because we’re lacking that spirit or just being disobedient.
Like I said, I don’t have this down pat, but I am SO thankful that God’s love for me is unconditional and eternal, and I hope that I can become a more consistent reflection of that love toward others.