The word "love" is a mere four letters, yet it remains enigmatic and often misunderstood by many. It conjures images of cinematic romance, where a boy and a girl defy great odds to be together, exchanging sweet declarations like, "You are the best thing that happened to me," or "My love for you is like living; without you, I am dead." And predictably, at the movie's conclusion, they tie the knot and live happily ever after.
But is this the entirety of love's essence? How do we account for the individuals who leave behind a trail of broken hearts? It's because they may not truly comprehend the meaning and core of love.
In the Amplified Bible, love is defined as "true affection for God and man, growing out of God's love for and in us" (1 Corinthians 13:13). This definition underscores that love, divorced from a connection with God, is not genuine but merely a human emotion. Love is not merely an emotion, although it does elicit emotional responses. Often, we blur the lines between the two, and therein lies the root of many problems. This confusion may explain the rising divorce rates worldwide, including among Christians.
I vividly recall how my wife and I met and became friends. Interestingly, our connection was kindled by the Word of God. We both worked in the same office complex, and one day, she visited my office to see a friend who had neglected to inform her about her vacation. We exchanged greetings and decided to have lunch together during our break time. My break time was my cherished period for studying the Bible and praying since the office would be quiet. Though I was wrapping up my study when she arrived, I was delighted to accompany her to the cafeteria. We conversed as we dined, and she learned that I was a Christian, understanding why she seldom saw me in the cafeteria, as I typically arrived after her.
From that point onward, we established a routine of having early lunches and devoting the remaining time to studying the Bible and praying together. It became a cherished time for both of us, and our friendship gradually deepened. At this juncture, I found myself grappling internally. I needed to ensure that my feelings were rooted in genuine love, based on the standards outlined in the Bible, and not merely selfish desires. Having come from a broken home, I was determined not to repeat the same pattern. The struggle was intense, but God heard my plea and granted me peace.
This year, we are celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary. Reflecting on these years, I realize I have never once regretted my decision to spend the rest of my life with that woman who walked into my life that afternoon. We have weathered trials and tests of our love, yet it remains intact and unbroken. It hasn't always been smooth sailing; we've had our ups and downs, but we have never entertained thoughts of separation or divorce. From the outset, we agreed that divorce was not an option, and God has sustained us thus far.
So, what's our secret? We made Christ the focal point of our love and our marriage. Everything we feel for each other, both then and now, emanates from God's love residing within us. It's no wonder that the relationship between Christ and the Church is likened to a marriage, where the Church is the bride and Christ is the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15). My wife and I hail from different backgrounds and cultures, imperfect individuals who chose to love each other despite our differences and flaws.
According to the Apostle Paul, the key to a successful marriage lies in a specific formula: Women should submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22). Unfortunately, the term "submission" has often been misconstrued, even among Christians. Some misinterpret it as relinquishing one's voice and accepting everything without question. This interpretation is far from the truth. Paul referred to establishing a structure within the home, just as any group requires leadership to function effectively. He swiftly followed this by instructing husbands, "For husbands, this means love your wives just as Christ loved the Church" (Ephesians 5:25). To love in this manner necessitates self-sacrifice, akin to Jesus giving His life for the Church.
Paul's wisdom extends to the last part of Ephesians 5:28, where he states, "For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself." In essence, treat your wife as you would want to be treated. Regrettably, this principle seems to be alien in today's world. Nevertheless, as Christians, we would do well to internalize this blueprint and live by it.
In a world where relationships are often tested and strained, embracing the principles of genuine, Christ-centered love can be a beacon of hope and healing. As Christians, we are called to exemplify this love in our relationships, fostering a culture of respect, selflessness, and unwavering commitment. By doing so, we not only strengthen our own unions but also contribute to a world in dire need of authentic love and lasting relationships.
In the end, the heart of love, when centered on Christ, beats with resilience and enduring affection, transcending the boundaries of time and circumstance. It is a love that withstands the test of time, and it is a love worth pursuing and cherishing.