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