I want to share with you about three kinds of love. I’m not talking about the three well-known kinds of love talked about in The New Testament … agape (God-love), eros (sexual love), and phileo (brotherly love). Those three kinds of love are all good, but I want to share with you about the three kinds of love I’ve seen couples who are "in love" encounter and wrestle with … and about the benefits and non-benefits of each.
My words here may touch on things you've thought about before. But I invite you to hear them again; not because you’re slow on the uptake … but because you’re human. The primary word used for “wisdom” in The Old Testament is the Hebrew word chokmah which means “that which is pounded in.” So let me “pound away” for just a few minutes about these three kinds of love … two that find their root and fruit in the ways of the world … and one that finds its root and fruit in the very heart of purposes of God.
LOVE THAT IS FALLEN INTO …
The first kind of love is the kind that couples FALL INTO. We’ve all heard people talk about “falling in love.” Frankly I don’t know how this saying got started! In a Thesaurus, synonyms for “fall” include: drop, plunge, descend, plummet, collapse and accident. Not exactly words I want associated with the love I have for my wife Teresa.
When I think of "falling into something," the first thing that comes to mind is “falling into a hole or into a well.” Bummer. The image is of a person walking along with their eyes closed and their brain in neutral, and them YIKES!” they fall down! The root of this kind of FALLEN love is often the fear and anxiety of being alone. Fear and anxiety usually lead us to confusion not clarity, and they're often at the genesis of us being compulsive and impulsive in our decision-making and in our responses … neither of which are components of God-given love.
When people FALL INTO love they’re usually at the least, shortsighted, and more often than not they're completely blind. FALLING INTO love is the stuff of fables, movies and cheap novels … and has little to do with real life -- certainly not with the kind of "abundant life" God has in mind for His children.
The fruit of FALLING INTO love is sprained hearts, damaged emotions and a legacy of going from relationship to relationship to relationship. Because the bottom line is that that which can be FALLEN INTO can easily be FALLEN OUT OF.
When Paul writes in First Corinthians 13:7-8 that “Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always remains strong and love never ends,” he’s not writing about the kind of love that’s FALLEN INTO. Because that kind of love can never be any of these things.
LOVE THAT IS FOUND …
The second kind of love the world advertises is the kind of love that IS FOUND. Born out of some kind of thinly-veiled-spiritual-romantic-scavenger-hunt, love that IS FOUND is usually a little less chaotic than love that is FALLEN INTO, but ultimately it’s not any less unrewarding.
Usually rooted in the notion that God owes everyone in His creation the experience of a dreamy love relationship, people who FIND somebody to love soon smother the person they’ve found, and within a short time the relationship is defined by two people screaming to get out.
This is the kind of “noisy bell / crashing cymbal” love Paul talks about in First Corinthians 13:1. And as things become dissonant and clangy, soon nothing is left, except two people wondering what in the world happened to the love they’d found … the love they once thought was precious and everlasting.
The sad fruits of FOUND love are usually emotional-whiplash and discouragement. And often times, when the honeymoon is over there’s a bitterness that sets in … not just toward relationships in general, but when Christians settle for this kind of love, there’s a bitterness that comes back towards God.
No longer is it just that the relationship didn’t work out, but now the perception is that God let the person down, that God led them to find the wrong person, that God’s relational compass is somehow out of whack. And the dreadful bottom line is the often-formed conclusion that "God cannot be trusted."
In a day and age where many folks, sad to say, Christians included, think that committing to marriage is the relational equivalent of Russian roulette, I’m excited to "know in my knower" that God wants to lead people into a third kind of love.
LOVE THAT IS FORGED AND FORMED …
Now by FORGED I obviously don’t mean a love that’s been “faked” or “counterfeited” like a 3-dollar bill. Rather I’m referring to a love that has been hammered out, tested, and tempered by God Himself. And by FORMED I’m referring to a love that has been shaped with purpose, had the impurities smelted out of it and been made to last … a love that’s not based in emotions or touch-feely mushiness.
How God the Father longs to see a man and a woman standing at the marriage altar robed in a love that has been FORGED AND FORMED instead of in a love that’s simply been FALLEN INTO or FOUND.
When couples come before God and others to “become one” God wants to see them coming together for the right reasons. Because only then does their relationship become a Kingdom of God union … and only then will they be choosing to live into God’s will God’s way.
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes some words to a young group of Christ-followers, and I believe they’re words that well-describe the attitude God calls married people to pursue as the core philosophy and attitude of who they are as a couple and what they will do as a couple from their wedding day forward … Paul writes:
good impression on others. Be humble,
thinking of others as better than yourself.
Don’t think only about your own interests,
but be interested in others, too, and
what they are doing.”
Thinking about Paul’s words from the perspective of a couple whose love has been FORGED AND FORMED, let me paraphrase Paul’s words, focusing them onto what I believe he’s saying to a man and a woman who are married (or anticipating marriage), who are experiencing the pattern of leaving, cleaving and weaving God teaches about in His WORD …
don’t ever begin buying into the lie (no
matter how subtly) that you’re the more
important part of the equation, and that
your spouse is less important. This attitude
of selfishness has been around since the
Garden, and it’s bad math. If you adopt
this attitude (again, no matter how subtly),
it will fraction and divide your hearts and
subtract from your joy. Why not follow
God’s lesson plan instead? His desire is that
through humility and servanthood you add
to one another’s lives and multiply one
I love the way Eugene Peterson renders this passage in The Message …
be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your
way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way
to the top. Put yourself aside, and help
one another get ahead. Don’t be obsessed
with getting your own advantage. Forget
yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
What does God want to see in the lives of couples seeking to live out the Truth of Paul’s words from Philippians 2:3-4 in the day-to-day realities of their married life?
- Two hearts FORGED AND FORMED by God’s love and FORGED AND FORMED into the pattern of God’s love.
- Two lives committed to the furthering of God’s Kingdom no matter what the cost.
- Two people becoming one.