“I don’t love you anymore.”
Those words hit Joanne like a mac truck. Two decades of marriage and three children, to hear Gary say such a thing instantly sent her mind reeling, scrambling to piece some cohesive response.
Before Joanne could recover, through a flat and unsympathetic tone, Gary reinforced his feeling or lack thereof.
“I am not in love with you, Joanne.”
How often conversations just like this one occurs today. A one-time starry-eyed couple hopelessly devoted to each other finds themselves after a few years or decades, that they have simply “fallen out of love”.
Why does this happen? Perhaps, we have a wrong understanding of what love is.
Love to most people is simply an emotional feeling they receive when something pleases them. For example, I love pizza. The reason is that it tastes good and I love it because it does something for me. How many people, if they were honest, would say the same thing about the one they’re with?
It is easy to view relationships that way. Take most young couples, as they begin their relationship they are at the height of their romance. Everything is great, the excitement of this new budding relationship is intoxicating, they can’t wait to see each other after class, they talk for hours on the phone. Is any of this sounding familiar? Then they get hitched and get older. Changes, though often subtle, start to appear and the once feisty and inspiring woman he fell in love with in college now has become an older, less energetic housewife who is more accustomed to wearing sweats and sneakers and likewise, the husband she married, who was the picture of virility and fitness, has gained a few pant sizes and a more cynical attitude about life to boot.
They don’t make each other feel good anymore and as a consequence, they fall out of love.
According to the Scriptures, love is not solely an emotion you feel. We have unfortunately been duped into this notion that love is only romantic in nature and therefore when that emotion fades or becomes unpleasant that means it is time to split.
In contrast, although in the Bible love does have an aspect of romantic emotion attached to it, it is not ruled by feelings alone. Why? Because feelings change. Remember the earlier illustration or even better yet look at your own life. Love according to the God’s Word, is not fickle or finicky rather it is unconditional, unselfish and perseveres to the end.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he gives one of the clearest definitions of love ever written. He writes in 1 Cor. 13:4-6, “Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth.”
Do you see anything different as opposed to the commonly understood concept of love? The love that Paul is describing is outwardly focused. This is made even more clear in the phrase “does not insist on its own way”. How many marriages end because of “irreconcilable differences”? In other words, you have individuals insisting on their own way and stubbornly refusing to give in to make things work.
The purest form of love is unselfish and unconditional at its essence, not driven by self-serving emotion. Again, this is in direct opposition to our widespread misunderstanding of love. We stop loving someone when they quit meeting our conditions or we respond negatively (as in being rude or resentful) when they stop making us feel good. This is wrong and relationships are paying the price.
Also, the very activity of love Paul says “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). Biblically speaking, there is not one moment that love will cease to persevere. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, according to the 1 Cor. 13:8, “love never ends.”
Juxtapose that to what we see and we hear in our world today regarding love. True love, of which many obviously do not understand, is not merely a feeling that comes and goes rather it is demonstrative of something truly great and eternal.
To the Garys and Joannes and to everyone else reading this, let’s get back to the Biblical standard of love because as the heartbreaking evidence shows, our ignorance has cost us.