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Love and Marriage - God's Way

Wedding Kiss

by Dennis Pollock

The concepts of love and marriage have been in the world since the first couple, Adam and Eve. Throughout the seven days of creation the Bible declares again and again that “God saw that it was good.” However, as He viewed solitary Adam, working quietly by himself in the garden, we find God saying, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). And so God initiated and oversaw the very first marriage. Adam took a nap one day, and when he woke up he was missing a rib, but he had gained a wife.

If you ask most people what should precede marriage, they will answer “falling in love.” But what does the Bible say about this? Is it approved? Is it necessary? Will it last? In this devotional study we will look at the Biblical view of love and marriage, and note the differences between the marriages of Christians vs. those who are outside the faith.

Love

Sometimes Christians hardly know what to say or think about the idea of “falling in love.” We instinctively know that the world’s version of it is surely off – after all, if falling in love were a guarantee for successful marriage, there would hardly be any divorces. Tragically we find that it is quite possible to fall madly in love today, and within a year or two be so much out of love that divorce seems the only answer.

In response to this, Christians have sometimes mocked the whole idea of falling in love, and give the impression that if you are really and truly spiritual you will never fall in love. You will choose a spouse based totally on some scale of holiness and coldly and methodically go through the necessary motions to get married and live together as man and wife.

This is taking things a little too far. We must keep in mind that we were created by God. This means that when you see humans acting in a certain fashion, and when this is a universal phenomenon, you can be pretty sure that our Creator hard-wired us in this fashion. We may have twisted and warped the desire or the instinct, but if we can go back to the original untainted version, God must have had His reasons for making us like this. Of course this does not apply to greed, lust, stealing, lying, and so forth. But in more neutral desires and behaviors, we can almost always trace these back to our Creator.

The truth is, we human beings were created with the capacity and tendency to fall in love, and to be highly attracted to members of the opposite sex. We find this desire often so overwhelming that it seems utterly irresistible. It is indeed about the strongest emotional state human beings will ever experience. This is why the vast majority of popular songs have always centered on the issue of romantic love, whether Whitney Houston’s declaring “I Will Always Love You” or Patsy Cline singing about “Your Cheating Heart.”

No one has to read a book or take a course on how to fall in love. We do it freely, naturally, and without the slightest effort. If we are convinced that this capacity, ability, and tendency were hardwired into our psyche by our Creator, we must ask the question, “Why?” Why would God make men and women this way? Why not make us cold, unemotional, and perfectly objective in our relations with the opposite sex? The answer is pretty obvious. Other than a few exceptions, God wants His creation to live together as husband and wife. He does not merely permit marriage; He encourages it to the max. Echoing through every occasion when a man proposes to his lady on bended knee, through every marriage celebration punctuated with those famous words, “You may kiss the bride,” through every frantic trip to the hospital which results in a new life coming into the world, is God’s original declaration: “It is not good for a man to be alone.” And had the situation been reversed and it had been Eve working alone in the garden, I have no doubt that He would have said, “It is not good for a woman to be alone.”

Love in the Bible

Biblically there is not a lot spoken about the falling in love process. But there are two places where the inspired word clearly speaks to this issue. In Genesis we read of Jacob’s tremendous love for Rachel. His sneaky father-in-law struck a deal with him, requiring him to work seven years as his bride-price, to which Jacob gladly agreed. The Bible says, “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20).

Another place in the Bible which addresses romantic love is found in the little book of Song of Solomon. This has to be one of the most unusual books in the Bible, and is essentially a poetic interchange between a young woman enflamed with love and her fiancé, King Solomon. She speaks of being “lovesick,” and he gushes that she has ravished his heart with one look of her eyes. He declares that her lips drip as the honeycomb, and honey and milk are under her tongue. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. For a long time, the church, uncomfortable with the white-hot nature of the language, emphasized that this was an allegory of the love that exists between Christ and the Christians, and refused to say much about its romantic aspects. But surely, if nothing else, this book demonstrates that God does not require His children to approach marriage without emotion and with a pious pretense of total detachment.

On the other hand, there are a number of places in the Bible in which God reveals that marriage can be for other reasons. In the Old Testament there was a law that if a married man died without children, it was the duty of one of his single brothers to marry their brother’s widow and produce heirs in their brother’s name. It didn’t matter whether they loved each other, whether one was ugly and the other pretty, whether they showed a high compatibility factor on some marriage questionnaire, or whether they even wanted to be married. God said, “Marry your brother’s widow,” and that was that.

Ruth and Boaz

Ruth and NaomiThe Book of Ruth is considered a great love story, but in reality it hardly fits our vision of romance, passion, and love. Ruth had been married previously and her husband had died. Her mother-in-law decided that she needed to find a husband and get married again. It was not because she needed a little spark in her life, not to satisfy her feminine passions, nor even because she was lonely. The Bible tells us, “Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you” (Ruth 3:1). This sounds like a most unromantic statement! But in those days there were few jobs available to women, and a woman’s best chance of living a comfortable life was to get married – preferably to a man she loved, but if that was unavailable, then to a man she liked or who was at least not terribly disagreeable. Naomi helped Ruth to get the attention of Boaz, a man considerably older than her, and probably not the most handsome man in the community, but who was both decent and well-off – a not-too-bad combination in Naomi’s mind, and apparently in Ruth’s as well. The story is really not so much a “love story” as it is a God story. Ruth and Boaz were married and their son turned out to be the grandfather of King David, through whose lineage Christ would come.

So falling in love is not strictly necessary for a good and godly marriage, but without this phenomenon there would be a whole lot less marriages and far fewer children born into this world. Again, God clearly wants most humans married. He wants them having babies and raising children, and falling in love is His great motivator, along with the sex drive, to make sure this happens. And it works perfectly, and has worked throughout the earth’s history from generation to generation.

Marriage

The highly-charged emotional state of falling in love was never meant to last a lifetime. It serves as first gear to get the relationship up and running, and headed for the marriage altar. But cars would be nearly worthless if they only had a first gear. Driving would be maddeningly slow. First gear is perfect to get you from a dead stop up to about fifteen miles an hour, but once you get moving you will need a second, third, and fourth gear. However, falling in love is not a sure sign that God intends you to marry the object of your affection. People fall in love all the time with others whom they have no business marrying – someone who is already married, someone who is not a Christian, someone who possesses such different values and goals that any sane person should quickly see that marriage in such a case would be a recipe for disaster.

For the Christian the will of God is paramount. This is where prayer comes in. In those early stages of love, before promises are made and commitments sealed, it is time to ask the Heavenly Father His opinion. Some situations are so obvious we do not need to ask. For a Christian young lady to pray and seek God’s will about marrying a man who has no interest in the things of Christ is nothing more than hypocrisy. God has already declared in His word that we are not to be unequally yoked.  But in other cases there are no obvious red flags, and so we pray.

It is not as though we expect to hear an audible voice. But we are convinced that God is a master-communicator, and is well able to make His mind known to us. It will take time. People who rush into commitments after hasty little prayers will often live to regret it. “Act in haste; repent in leisure.” One of the biggest aspects of praying about the will of God is allowing our Heavenly Father the time to change our minds or confirm to us that what we desire is truly His will.

Eventually most Christians will get God’s green light about a potential spouse, and become convinced that there is no reason to delay further. And so a ring is put on the woman’s finger and a wedding date is set.

The Hard Part

ArgumentAfter the “I do’s” (or “I will’s”) have been said, then comes the hard part. Not at first, of course, There is in most marriages a honeymoon period where everything seems wonderful, and many naively suppose that this will last all their days. It never does. We find that it is harder, in fact much, much harder for two people to live together, to share the same table and bed, to make decisions about social events, finances, living quarters, and everything else than we ever thought would be the case. Disagreements arise and arguments result. Feelings are hurt, and emotions other than passionate, blinding love now become part of the equation.

Here is where Christian men and women are so radically different from their secular counterparts. The difference isn’t that non-Christians argue and disagree, while Christians never do. It is not that there are hurt feelings in non-Christian marriages, but in Christian marriages there is nothing but love, bliss, and joy. It would be wonderful if such were the case, but anyone who thinks that is living in a fantasy world. As in everything else, the difference is Jesus Christ.

First, we know from His word that Jesus expects us to live together until one of us dies. Apart from the one allowable exception of adultery, divorce is not an option. Secondly, following Christ, and obeying His commands to love, bear with one another, and forgive each other goes a long way towards resolving issues and getting through the bumpy roads we sometimes face. And finally, we find we have an ally, a marriage counselor and encourager, the Holy Spirit. Jesus, by the Holy Spirit takes us successfully through the gears of marriage and puts us on God’s highway. Human love is swallowed up and transcended by God’s love, which “seeks not its own.”

Because we are human we don’t always get everything right. Christian marriages aren’t perfect, but through the power of the Holy Spirit they can be very, very good! You know you are on the right track when you find yourself thanking God for your spouse again and again.

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