It all depends on the definition

Mark G. Schroeder

The last time I had the privilege of presiding over a wedding service, I began the sermon with a question that caught the young couple by surprise. I said, “I have a question for you. Do you love each other?”

The bride and groom were too polite to say it out loud, but their raised eyebrows showed what they probably were thinking: Well, we are here to get married. We are promising ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. Of course we love each other!

Then I asked a question that was a little more difficult, whose answer was a little less obvious: “What do you mean when you say you love each other?”

Across this country today, thousands of other newlyweds will answer that question in different ways. “I know I love him because he makes me feel happy when I’m with him.” “I love her because she makes me laugh and smile.” “I know I love him because I feel attracted to him, emotionally, romantically, even physically.” “I know I love her because she is my soul mate; we think alike and enjoy common interests.”

All those definitions describe love in terms of feelings and emotions. But we know what happens to feelings and emotions—they always change. One day you’re happy; the next day you’re sad. One day you feel energetic; the next day you feel like you don’t want to get up in the morning. If love is just an emotion, then we shouldn’t be surprised that so many people wake up one day and realize that their love for their spouse has changed or disappeared. Like all emotions, that kind of love can go away, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.

A Christian husband and wife know that love is much more than a feeling or an emotion. They know that God created marriage as a special gift and blessing to bring joy and happiness to a man and women. And as the one who created marriage, he’s also the one who defines what married love really should be. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (5:25). Jesus’ love for us was a commitment to give himself completely to us and for us. His love for us meant that he made our happiness and welfare the most important thing to him; he was willing to go all the way to the cross for us.

In other words, when a Christian husband says he loves his wife, he means, “For the rest of my life everything I do will be done for your happiness, your welfare, and your good.” A Christian wife who has Christlike love for her husband will see her marriage as a daily opportunity to give happiness, joy, and fulfillment to her husband. Their love for each other will be much more than feelings and emotions; it will be a readiness to do and to act for each other.

The understanding of the love God has designed for marriage is not just for newlyweds. It’s the kind of love that needs to be the foundation for every marriage. That kind of love, modeled after Christ’s love for his church, makes for strong and happy marriages, homes, and families that look to be guided and strengthened by the Word of the Savior who established them.


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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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