Earlier this month, my parents celebrated 50 years of marriage. We were privileged to host a celebration in their honor and invited a host of their family and friends from the past 50 years of their lives together.
I’ve been reflecting on what holds a marriage together for that long. I’ve determined that there are a couple of things that a lasting marriage is built around. Love is certainly what begins a lifetime together, but the feeling called love that we are familiar with fades with time. And therein lies the problem. Love cannot always be a feeling. Lasting love has to be much more than pheromones and hormones. When those things fade, all you have left is a choice. To love or not to love. As followers of Christ, we are all called to Love. Not only our spouses, but ... everyone.
The truth is: there are a couple of Big C’s involved in real love - the God-kind of Love.
Love is a Choice.
Choice is part of that whole free will thing that God has given us. We have the freedom to choose, to consider and select freely. Having a choice means we have the power, the opportunity or privilege to choose freely.
When I first heard the statement Love is a Choice, I thought “well, that’s a very nice sentiment, though not very practical.” Until the Holy Spirit reminded me how God loves me despite my rebelliousness, disobedience and lack of respect. He chooses to love me. If God acted on His feelings, I’d be in a whole lot of trouble … and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be alone. Think about that friend who betrayed you, the office gossip, that insubordinate employee, or ________ (you fill in the blank). If we acted on our feelings, most of us would say that we dislike or even hate that individual. If God did that, just where would I be? But, no. He chooses to love me, to give me another million chances, dispensing new mercies and pouring more grace over my life.
As followers of Christ, we should be constantly morphing to more-Christ-likeness every day. Christ made an outrageous choice to love us when He gave up His life for me and you. Since we have the Mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), we too must make that selfless sacrifice, to choose to love the hard to love and even the unlovable.
Love is a Commitment.
Webster defines Commitment as an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled.
I thought about the commitment that my parents kept every day during the last fifty years. When times were tight financially, when the disappointments of life stretched them too thin, when they argued about anything … trivial or important … they may have disagreed, there may have been tears and loud voices, there may have been hurt feelings, there may have even been fleeting thoughts of giving up and going their separate ways. But instead, a choice was made to love each other, even though it may have been difficult to conquer that feeling of un-love. They have not taken their commitment to each other lightly.
You’ve been married now for a few years, and you reeeeeeeally know your spouse by now. He’s got some junk in his life, doesn’t he? He’s not as perfect as you thought, is he? Before you agree too vehemently, ladies, we aren’t either. Over time, we tend to pile up our personal junk right in the middle of our relationships. No marriage is impervious to this. Only a committed mate will make the effort to climb over the junk to restore and renew the relationship. I know my parents have had junk in their marriage. The difference is: they made a choice to love in spite of the junk. Their commitment to God and to each other took priority over any hurt feelings or emotional distance between them.
In marriage, we would all agree that a commitment has been made. A pledge was made to your mate to love him or her for the rest of your life. But what about the rest of the human race? There has been no pledge given to love them, right? Keep reading.
Love is a Covenant.
Christ ordained two institutions: The Church and marriage. Interesting that the Church is the Bride of Christ ... the Bridegroom. Marriage on this earth is a parallel to and, indeed, a rehearsal for, the Marriage relationship we will have in Heaven with the Bridegroom. Marriage on this earth between a man and woman is the ultimate human relationship, and a covenant. God was the first to forge a covenant with man. God understands covenant. He does not break a covenant. When God is the center of a marriage covenant, He is the third cord referred to in Ecclesiastes 4:12. Without the strong third cord, marriage, which is already difficult, becomes treacherous. Thank God my parents have always kept Him at the center of their marriage and lives.
Love is a Commandment.
In Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV), Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” If the only two commandments Christ gave to the Church are to love God and to love each other, then love is pretty important to Him, isn’t it? It is interesting to note that, by the very definition of the word “command,” the One who gave the command is Someone with the authority to give such an order. Who else that ever walked about in human flesh has the authority to command us to love?
When Jesus saved me, I made a commitment to follow and serve and obey Him. There’s the commitment. I made the commitment to Jesus to obey Him, therefore I made a commitment to love the rest of the world.
Many times I wonder how God can love me with all the junk in my past, and the newly collected junk that threatens to overtake me every day. I’m glad He’s not like me. If I were Him, I’d get awfully tired of the repeated disobedience and spiritual adultery. When someone has repeatedly done me wrong, it’s very hard for me to forgive and to love. (Be honest, it’s probably hard for you, too!) I may say that I’ve forgiven, but sometimes I sure don’t feel like I have. But if I repeatedly tell myself that I have forgiven and I do love and not falter in that statement, eventually my heart will line up with my words. Love requires forgiveness. Forgiveness requires love.
Jesus loves His Church. Sure, she isn’t perfect. Many times she isn’t faithful. She is too easily turned aside to partake of worldly pleasures. Her affections are like the wind, they vacillate to and fro with the culture of the day. But Jesus loves us anyway, regardless of the sin that infests us.
We are the Body of Christ, The Bride. We are called to love EVERYONE. We have already made the commitment to Christ, now we have to put feet on that commitment and choose to love them, even when they may be unloveable. Remember … none are righteous, no not one. Yet, He loves every one of us.