With Valentine’s Day approaching this week, much will be spent on flowers, chocolate, and small baubles as men of all ages seek to communicate in just the right way the simple words: “I love you”. February 14th is a day when some will even seek out the bonds of marriage, while some others may have chosen this day specifically to tie the proverbial knot. As I watch this yearly phenomena, I wonder how much of it is sincere, how much of it is advertising coercion (buy this for her and she’ll love you, or don’t and you’re a dead man!), and last of all, how long it will last.
That last question really bothers me. I hope it bothers you, too.
How long does “I love you” last?
It reminds me of the joke where some married couple is arguing and the wife accuses her husband of never telling her “I love you” often enough. At the end of the joke he finally ends the argument by saying, “I told you I love you the day we were married. If anything changes, I’ll let you know!”
The problem with a love that does not last is that it is a love based upon conditions.
Face it, we are taught to live a conditional life in a “do this for me and I’ll do this for you” sort of way. Most people I know wouldn’t work at their jobs very long without a paycheck. Even if they love what they are doing for a living, there has to be the condition of payment or else they could not continue to do that job indefinitely. We walk out of stores with certain needs and wants in exchange for money. We tend to treat others with varying degrees of trust that are earned. Respect is also a two way street where our ability to respect someone can decrease rapidly with how well (or not) we feel respected or disrespected. The list of conditions in all of our various interactions and relationships with others is quite long!
It seems life is full of conditional arrangements. So then, it is quite a natural idea that how we love each other, even in marriage, would be conditional. The act of divorce itself is proof enough of that. If someone can answer the question “What would make you want a divorce?” then they have answered the condition(s) upon which their marriage would rest. However, God wants Christians in marriage to love unconditionally. Even though infidelity in marriage is listed as a possible reason for divorce, the act of divorce is still discouraged.
Because a Christian marriage is supposed to be a picture of God’s love for us.
Does God love you conditionally or unconditionally?
For those of you reading this who have been through divorce yourself or know someone who has been through divorce and thinking of all the reasons why a divorce is justified, stop for a moment and think about the unconditional love of God for you.
I realized one day that I simply do not have the capability to love my wife unconditionally . . . apart from the love of God in me.
The last article I wrote (MenRising) talked about the application of I AM applied, and one of those applications had to to with the fact that GOD IS LOVE. God can love unconditionally, because God is love. I cannot love unconditionally because I am broken, and by my very nature and through interactions in my life, I am consistently and constantly taught that all interactions are conditional, including my marriage relationship. Though no one actually spelled it out for me, somewhere in the back of my mind I had an expectation of what married life would be like before I chose to be married. That expectation set up a list of conditions.
The same thing was happening to my wife. She had her own mental list of how life was going to change, be different, be better somehow because she was getting married . . . and all of those expectations she had were placed on my shoulders. The basic problem is that my wife and I happen to both be flawed human beings. It took very little time to collapse quite a few of those expectations we had for each other.
I wish someone had told me about all this, but instead I was given a Christian checklist of “do’s and do not’s” that would lead to a happy healthy marriage. What no one ever told me was how, as a flawed human being who loves conditionally, I am supposed to love another flawed human being unconditionally.
What I now realize is that unconditional love for my wife is possible, but does not originate with me. As a Christian, I have God in me. To love my wife unconditionally all I have to do is go back to the cross. When I go to the cross I look back at the person I knew, the person I really was apart from Christ. I look at the person God forgave, who Jesus died for, at every sin and every spot and stain forever wiped away by the blood of Jesus that I might have a kinship with God.
Once in that frame of mind, realizing who I was, I then realize who I am now thanks to the infinite unconditional love of God. Then, I allow the love of Christ to flow through me to my wife. When I do that, I become the physical manifestation of the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, and can obey without condition the command of Christ in Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”
I submit to you this; when you as a husband allow the unconditional love of Christ for you, to flow through you to your wife, and when she does the same, then your marriage will become one in which both husband and wife become the physical manifestation of God’s unconditional love for each other.© 2010-2013 John Bagwell www.MenRising.com All Rights Reserved