February, Valentine’s Day, love is in the air! Or is it? The word is being tossed around, people in relationships are celebrating and the economy is being helped. But does God look at all this and call it “love?”
In the name of “love” children are being brought into the world without the benefit of a stable, enduring home in which to thrive. Trying to raise children in a cohabiting home where the “adults” are unwilling (and unable) to make a lifetime commitment is like trying to drive a semi across a foot bridge—it is guaranteed to collapse!
So is marriage the answer? Not by current definition—for many today, marriage is just legalized lust. This approach has discounted marriage to being “just a piece of paper.” Since it is just about sex and you can have that without legal commitment, why not just skip the encumbrance? Marriages are failing anyway, so why bother?
Professed Christians are just as guilty as the world around them. When I sit down with a couple, I often ask them to tell me what they vowed when they got married. Most can’t do it! Weddings are often just exercises in empty romanticism, fulfilling some vague desire for a tradition-based emotional high. A sure indication of this is when a couple spends more time, energy and money preparing for a 30 minute wedding than they invest in preparing for a lifetime of marriage.
And lest we forget, the children that come along and we say we “love” more than anything suffer the most because our “love” is insufficient for their basic need of an intact God-honoring family where love is their daily experience!
The contrast is a biblical perspective on love. Even here, there is a danger—we can try to emulate the effect without the empowering cause of spiritual life. Many are like Pharaoh’s magicians who mimicked Moses’ miracles but finally could not keep up with what God was doing (Exodus 7). Impressive actions, but the result are hard, cold hearts toward God.
In the Bible we find that our love begins with love for God which produces a life of delighted obedience. This life is a foundation for loving others in an effective manner. To paraphrase Jesus’s words, the first and greatest commandment is to love God with everything you are and have and then love your neighbor as yourself. This instruction was repeated at least three times in Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12: 28-34; Luke 10:25-28).
A basic question when you wonder if you can trust someone’s profession of love for you is whether you see you can trust their love for God! When they say, “I love you,” you can be sure they will not be more faithful to you than to Him! You will never be more deserving of love or more loving than God is.
This basic love relationship teaches us how to genuinely love others (Eph. 5:22-33). It also provides the necessary spiritual enablement to love like God has loved you through Jesus Christ (1 John 3:14-16). No wonder Jesus’ confrontation with Peter after his denial was simply, “Peter, do you love me?”
The transformation needed in the world is never more evident than when it tries to mimic the work of God without the power of God. The devastation is obvious for all to see—just ask the children of warring parents who vowed to love each other until death.
John tells us that love is of God (1 John 4:7) and everyone who is going to truly love needs to be born of God, empowered by God (Gal. 5:22), taught by God and surrendered to God. “Unequally yoked” is not about having said some words in a prayer in the distant past, it is the problem of one who loves God above all else committing to someone with a different agenda! It cannot work to the glory of God: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt. 6:24) It isn’t just money, but that is one of the areas that a divided heart shows up and leads to conflict between people who claim to love each other!
Love should be in the air, but genuine love that begins with God and is expressed as an outflow of our relationship to Him. It is the only “real” thing that will stand the test of time!