Taking the
out of

How to Love When You Canít Love

"Heís killed all the love I ever had for him! I feel dead when Iím around him."

"I donít have any more feeling for her. I just canít love her anymore."

Sad words such as these have an air of finality about them that sounds as if there is no point in writing this chapter. If something is dead, it just doesnít normally come back to life. But can something dead be revived?

The ancient Greeks and Romans thought of sexual love as a god who shot arrows of passion and thereby "slew" victims who could not help falling in love. From the first century B.C. onwards, the Romans depicted Cupid in paintings and statues, making his "invincible" conquests. If you were shot by one of his arrows, you couldnít help yourself.

We moderns still tend to think the same way. Falling in love is viewed as being as irresistible as catching a cold. The Greek counterpart to the Cupid was Eros, son of the goddess Venus. In Hellenism, sexual love was a god; how could a mere mortal oppose a divine fiat?

The same idea pervades Muslim thinking. Extreme modesty is required of Muslim women because it is assumed that the sight of a womanís form or partially unclothed body will excite uncontrollable passion in a man, which will in turn be irresistible to the woman. It is almost inconceivable that a man and woman thrown together alone will not have sex. As in ancient Greece or Rome, sexual passion is divine. If Cupid shoots you, it is futile to resist. Oneís choice or will has no place in such "love." The corollary is that, as you have no control in falling in love, neither do you have any control over your falling out of love. Thatís the other side of Cupidís coin. And thatís the secret principle behind marital break-ups. But is Cupidís "love" the dictator-master of our souls so that we are slaves to do its bidding, to love or not to love?

The Bible idea of love is quite different. The Bible represents love as a principle. It can be willed or controlled according as the Holy Spirit of God enlightens the one who believes in the Saviour. Cupid may shoot his arrow in an attempt to get one infatuated with illicit love, one that is a path to ruin, but the Bible teaches that we can say No to such impulses. Cupid may also shoot his arrow after you are married and make you think you are hopelessly in love with someone who is not your husband or wife. Pagans think such an infatuation is of divine origin, and therefore is reason enough to break up a marriage. But the true Christian realizes that he or she can choose to deny this invitation to infidelity and overcome it by divine power.

Says the inspired apostle: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ĎNoí to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hopeóthe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness." Titus 2:11-14, NIV.

Is this a miserable way to live, always saying "No" to temptation? No, itís the only happy way to live. You are not called upon to grit your teeth and force yourself unwillingly to say No to temptations to illicit love. Not at all. The Bible says that the grace of God (divine enabling power) "teaches us to say ĎNoí" to temptation. We are not abject slaves to passion. In Christ we are free men and women with the God-given power of choice to let Him control our emotions and infatuations. If we can say No to an illicit love, we have gained a victory over the temptation. You canít imagine how happy you will be to find yourself delivered from a trap that would in the end have been nothing but the "pits" for you.

If it is possible to say No to an illicit love, is it not also possible to say Yes to a love that you know is right and proper, your God-given duty to nurture, but which you donít feel like at the moment?

God is not like Cupid. When you vow to love, honor, and cherish your spouse-to-be until death do you part, God wills that you love that marriage partner, and be happy doing so. It must be recognized, of course, that your spouse may not carry out his or her end of the bargain, but this does not excuse you from carrying out your part. Were this not true, Godís plan concerning marriage would be on the skids.

Now, we can rephrase the question this way: Is it possible to love an ornery spouse whom you feel you cannot love?

Practically all modern languages have but one word for love; however, the Greek language used in the New Testament had three main words for it: eros, philos, and agape. Eros was the Greek equivalent of Cupid, the god of passion, the "love" which depended on the beauty or goodness of its object. This is the standard equipment with which all of us are born. The ancient pagans assumed that eros was divine; for it was a mysterious emotion that seemed to sweep like a river in floodtide over all human obstacles. Philos is a lower level of love, more akin to affection, such as love of music or art.

The apostles never said that God is eros. John says that God is agape. See 1 John 4:8. This kind of love is a principle, not a passion. It is free and sovereign, not dependent on the goodness or beauty of its object. Therefore it can love bad peopleóeven ugly ones. "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die [this would be the highest form of eros]. But God commendeth his love [agape] toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For . . . when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." Romans 5:6-10.

Whereas eros and philos love are dependent on the value of their object, agape is love that creates value in its object. You donít have to clean yourself up first before you can know God accepts you. His love re-creates you, makes you as precious as the divine Gift that was given for your redemption.

Eros love instinctively wants to possess. In contrast, agape is a love that gives rather than takes or expects. Thus our human love seeks pleasure for its own sake; whereas agape wants to give pleasure to others. Human love seeks a reward; agape is willing to relinquish reward.

Agape is a love that we humans cannot generate on our own. It is foreign to our planet and must be imported. This breathtaking love is the supreme revelation of the character of God as displayed in Christ: "Love [agape] is of God; and every one that loveth [with agape] is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not [with agape] knoweth not God; for God is love [agape]. . . . Herein is love [agape], not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. . . . If we love one another [with agape], God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:7-12.

If a marriage is based only on eros love, it is captive to the whims of Cupidís capricious ways. At his command you fall out of love as readily as you fell in love. But the agape love that Christ gives stabilizes our human love. We read that agape never faileth (See 1 Corinthians 13:8), but the shipwrecks that litter our marital shores grimly testify that our human love does fail.

God wants your marriage to be happy. Agape can be infused into your conjugal love, to make it greater than it is. When the Lord commands, "Husbands, love your wives" (Colossians 3:19), the word used is the verb form of agape. A wifeís love must also be enriched by the same heavenly love. All this may seem impossible to us, unless we humbly face reality. We must let the gift be imported from above. The apostle admonishes, "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christís sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love [agape], as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us." Ephesians 4:31, 32; 5:1, 2. The how is in that phrase, "as Christ also hath loved us." To appreciate His love means that we see that we would be in our graves if He had not died for us. We owe even our physical life to His sacrifice for us, whether or not we understand it or believe it. All are infinitely and eternally in debt to a Saviour; even the sun shines and the showers fall by virtue of His sacrifice. Every loaf of bread is stamped with that cross, and every water spring reflects it. This is the lesson taught by the Lordís Supper.

Now things begin to happen. When we sense even a little our own weaknesses and orneriness, how we have experienced that grace "even as God for Christís sake hath forgiven" us, we immediately find it infinitely easier to "be . . . kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another." Like a desert spring that has gone dry but begins anew to gush forth its refreshing waters after a season of rain, so tender emotions that have dried up to dust deep in some mysterious chamber of the darkened heart begin to flow again. What we once thought forever impossible looms as a reality. The command to love oneís spouse may appear as impossible as moving Mount Everest, but when one sees how Christ has loved us, the miracle can happen.

Agape is a love that is in harmony with Godís will for us and His law. We can will to love [agape] "in Christ" by His grace. This is because everything that is Godís will is possible. Many a "dead" marriage can live again when we plug in to that ultimate Source of genuine love.

But can agape love reactivate a dead sexual love and solve its mysterious problems? Can the chemistry be reactivated?

The Miracle of Recreating Sexual Love.

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