Not just an emotion

Mark G. Schroeder

It was their wedding day. The bride and groom stood in front of me, looks of excitement, nervousness, and happiness on their face. It was time for the wedding sermon. 

I began by saying, “I have a question for you. Do you love each other?” 

The bride’s eyes widened, and she nodded her head eagerly. The groom looked at me with a look that said, “Are you serious? Of course, we do!” 

Then I said, “I would also like to ask you another question—one a little more difficult: How would you define the love that you have for each other? What do you mean when you say you love each other?” 

Sadly, it’s a question that a lot of couples—both newlyweds and those celebrating decades of marriage—do not know how to answer correctly. Some would say, “I know I love him because he makes me feel happy when I’m with him and he makes me laugh and smile.” “I know I love her because I feel attracted to her, emotionally, romantically, even physically.” 

Now those are good things. But those responses have one thing in common: They are all feelings, all emotions. And you know what happens to emotions. They always change. One day you’re happy; the next day you’re sad and depressed. One day you feel optimistic, the next day you feel like nothing will go well.  

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 is gone. Their feelings have changed, and when it comes to changing feelings and emotions, there’s not much you can do to stop it. 

God, the creator of marriage, has given us a different definition of love in a marriage: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). 

Jesus’ love for us is not just a feeling, not an emotion. His love for us was a commitment to act, a commitment to give himself completely to us and for us—all the way to the cross. His love for us meant that he made us more important than himself and he made our happiness and welfare the most important thing to him. He was willing to do everything not for himself, but for us.  

God’s kind of love in a marriage is action—doing—for the welfare and benefit and happiness of the other person. God’s kind of love puts the other person’s needs first. God’s kind of love never asks, “What’s in this marriage for me?” but rather, “What can I do today for you?” With Jesus’ love as the model and motive, Christian spouses give themselves to each other fully and completely. When that is happening in a marriage, no one ever needs to worry about “my wants, my needs, and my welfare,” because the spouse is already taking care of those things. 

How can you be sure that your love is the kind of love that God wants you to have, the kind of love that will guarantee a lifelong, joyful, and fulfilled marriage? Stay close to the Savior who demonstrated that love for you by dying on the cross for your sin. Build your marriage relationship on your growing relationship with your Savior as you worship him regularly, hear his Word, and live your lives for him. Then when you hear those words, “I love you,” you will both know that such love is not just an emotion, not just a feeling, but a commitment to put each other’s happiness first in everything. 

Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.



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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

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