A man “loves” the chance to catch a great game; a woman is incredibly affectionate about her chocolate. From a boy loving his dog to a dog going bonkers over a ball, following the heart can be quite challenging. Love in a marriage relationship can be even harder to trail.
A couple finding themselves in the romantic stage of a relationship will make decisions based primarily on feeling. When courtship is brand new, underneath affection, there is likely to be immaturity festering. Partners look out for what they consider to be number one—themselves. In the Greek language, we see that eros represents this facet of love, which might ask something like, “What have you done for me lately?” It indicates longing and desire. More times than not, this selfish expression of love joins a man and woman together in holy matrimony. A couple begins marriage with great hopes of finding absolute fulfillment. If eros love brings a man and his companion together, what keeps them committed past the honeymoon phase?
As the wildfire of romance settles to a small burning ember, Philos love weaves its way in. In Greek, this word is defined as friendship love, which is more foundational than love based solely on desire. Philos love asks, “How can I put the other person first?” Luke 14:10 paints a charming picture of the kind of selfless love God commands in any relationship. Jesus shares the following bit of wisdom with some guests preparing to find a seat for dinner. “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.”
Jesus teaches about having the heart of a servant and not thinking more highly of yourself than you should. When we choose a lowly pose, it allows God to raise us. Putting others first echoes God’s greatest decree. After training in the art of compromise, a married couple reaches this point of maturity. Here, the purest of all loves begins to take residence. Once invited in, how does the selfless love of God get polished and perfected?
The Noblest Love
Agape love is the result of a redecorated heart. In Beth Moore’s study, “Living Beyond Yourself,” she explains that agape love is the noblest expression of love. It is not based on passionate desire or the companionship found in a friend. “Agape love always flows from what is right and best. It is a foundational quality of the fruit Spirit,” observes Beth. The word Agape is described as the divine capacity to love. Only God is capable of love this pure.
What does that say to a husband and wife trying to care for one another with heart cleanliness? For the fruit of the Spirit to be lived out, a man and his wife must be connected to the Vine. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control CAN flow in and through as a couple abides in Him. Galatians 5:22 encourages us this way: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” We can choose to ignore the flesh by respectfully taking one another by the hand. Far greater than the “first dance” and with vigilant stride, longtime partners can keep in step with the music of conciliation by letting God lead.
The dance of marriage, however, is not always a smooth flowing waltz. There are several distinctions to consider when couples make the vow to love. Not long after the radiant gown is sent to the cleaners and the reception bill paid, a couple finds that their needs are quite different. Many distractions threaten to tear at true intimacy.
Work, in and outside of the home, can cause stress and time constraints. Keeping up with the finances has the potential to instigate a disagreement or two. Raising children? Well, that is in a league all its own. Then there are extended relationships to maintain, and let us not forget about taking care of the puppy and his beloved ball. Every interruption presents the opportunity to prioritize. With God’s help, one can choose the seat of servant hood by putting a spouse first. The Spirit of God can reduce selfishness by replacing it with obedience to God and His selfless, agape love.
Growth, Trust, and Hope
A marriage relationship must grow to become all that God intended. Growth demands a great amount of patience when things don’t seem to be blossoming as one would hope. Trust is needed for times when everything else proves undependable. Hope keeps light at the end of any tunnel. Perseverance maintains a couple’s desire to stick to the same partner on that dance floor. There is a great assurance from the Creator of holy matrimony. God promises never to fail us.
While eros love generates the first twinge of cold palms and wooziness, Philos love carries laughter and cultivates true companionship. These facets of love have their ups and downs, but it is agape love alone—God’s kind, that keeps a man and woman committed for life. As God’s lovely bride, what will you choose? His promise to purify that fluttery heart is one you can depend on. Choose the noblest of love, and take a seat in the back. In due time, God will lift you higher than you ever dreamed possible. He rises to show you compassion, and his liberation is worth the wait.
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