Today's lesson will obviously be on relationships—especially on marriages—but this will not be one of those, "how to" lessons studied in the past. This is a study which goes directly to the very root of why God even created marriage and what real intimate love is at its very essence.
1 John 4:8: This verse says that God not only loves, but that He literally is love, meaning it is literally His whole nature and character. It is in His very essence to always love, perfectly. Do you truly believe that statement? If you say that you do, then is your life reflecting how He loves, or how the world loves? Do you even know how differently God loves than the world? Because the way our society defines and expresses love is not even a shadow of what God says True Love looks like in Scriptures. Our world says that love is a combination of emotional bliss, happy circumstances, and having our needs met. And if any of these requirements aren't met, we may fall out of love. Maybe it's time to move on to someone else who can better love me, or whom I can love better myself. Sadly, this shallow, clueless view of love is not only unbiblical—it is not even real love—it is immature, destructive, painful, and completely self-focused, which is against everything that real love should be. Even secular psychology, after years of uninhibited freedom and experimentation in society, is beginning to recognize the most fundamental teachings of Scriptures in regards to real love. So, before we go on, I have to ask you a very important question: Do you believe in God? Have you trusted Him as your Savior? Do you Trust His Word? Does that mean that after this message you will follow it whether you like what it says or not?
Consider this simple but profound passage again (1 John 4:8) God is love, and we were created in His image. We were created in a His Image to literally have loving fellowship with God and God loved us so much that He chose pain, rejection, torture and death over losing us. Doesn't it stand to reason that our greatest desire would be to love and to be loved as well? Modern psychologists agree. (see Dr. Raj Raghnathan, Author of "If Your So Smart. Why Aren't You Happy?", in an article from Psychology Today). Remember, God even uses His own incredible love for the church, as a parallel example of what love for our spouses should be: Ephesians 5:31-32. This is solid evidence Biblically and psychologically, that real love, which truly sustains us and meets our deepest needs is so much bigger than the fleeting immature need to have the perfect mate, have perpetual happiness, and get our way all of the time.
Do you think that a person’s need for deep acceptance and love changes with their physical looks, weight, intelligence, or personality? Does our desire and effort to love another often change with these characteristics? This is one of the first places that we hurt others and ourselves—by offering affection conditionally. So many in relationships today, have a constant inner fear that their mate will love them less for very real reasons according to the world. If they aren't as pretty or handsome; or their figure is not as attractive; if they have emotional quirks, or social quirks; or they are not as fun-loving; or they are not as sexually pleasing; or they come with a lot of baggage from previous abuse or pain. And so many people constantly agonize over whether they should leave their present mate for many of the very same reasons. Could they be happier with someone else? Is there someone better they could possibly get? Is their mate up to par with average standard? Or they are just simply tired of the differences, attitude, failures, or shortcomings. Both of these stem from a lack of understanding about what real love has to offer them. We've bought the world's lies. I know how easy it is to find faults, quirks, attitudes, apathy and especially sins from your mate, as very real and very powerful reasons to not want to remain with them—or at best, to stay agitated and displeased with them. These faults, wrongs committed, and short-comings which are sometimes obviously not apparent in others, are often solid, and logical reasons to question staying. But to do so, often hurts them and yourself in ways you don't even understand. Did Jesus Christ stay with you in love? Even though you do not love back perfectly; even though you are not the most righteous; even though you are not the best looking, or the hardest working—did He do this for His own benefit? Or because He wanted to help you, serve you, heal you, and save you? Isn't His love for us, and our love for Him in return so amazing, largely because we can rest in His steadfastness like no other? 1 John 4:18; 1 Peter 4:8. We do not get married just to have our own needs met, and live more trouble-free lives either (Anyone had a more trouble-free life since marriage?) We get married because we find someone that we feel God has placed into our lives; so that we may give everything we have to make them feel loved, desired, and cared for all their days; so that we may truly learn how to love, and not just get what we want. And that is God's ultimate purpose in our lives, to learn how to love as He loves. So, is a troubled marriage meaningful in God's eyes? Priceless: it's a picture of Him and His Church. And this real love is not forged or felt until it is given when not deserved.
So, what do we do about these failures, shortcomings, quirks, and sins? Because God doesn't make mistakes, He expects us to recognize every shortcoming, every physical fault, every personality flaw, every special need, every irrational reaction brought about by insecurity or abuse, every bad habit, every annoying behavior, and choose to love them more than anyone in the world because of them. Because that is what makes them harder for someone else to love; because that is a part of who they are, and there is no one else quite like them; because their uniqueness requires a very special, one-of-a-kind love from you, just like an individual fingerprint—a love that is not quite like that which anyone else would need, to be cherished and honored. They require an understanding, a patience, a forgiveness, an encouragement like no other soul on this earth, and oyu have been given to them by God—it is your job to love them in that unique way. There is your love like no other; that is the love which every fairytale/love story desires. And get this: psychology seems to be catching up with Scriptures in this amazing fact as well: Philippians 2:3-5. By working so hard to love another, rather than just sitting back and expecting to be loved and catered to, we actually experience greater happiness, and more fulfillment.
To be loved like that, for someone to be completely accepted as they are, cherished above all for who they are, releases people to be themselves. No more hiding; to stop fearing failure, and begin to grow and blossom as a result; to realize they are not forgotten or hopeless for their mistakes, giving them a renewed desire that they can and should try to change; to actually believe they are worth loving, and therefore give love back, instead of hate or shame; to get a glimpse of the real love of Jesus Christ in your choice to love someone so imperfect. The very action of loving them through their faults, may be what actually causes them to love you in the way that you have always prayed they would. Marriage is a representation of Christ and the Church, right? And why does Scripture say that we love Him, as the Church? 1 John 4:19. Your unconditional love may change them in all of the ways you are trying to force change now, and, you need to accept the possibility, that just maybe you are as much a part of the conflict and trouble in the relationship as they may be, therefore, when you change your bad behavior by choosing to love as you should, it may remove much of the poison in the relationship as well. Even if none of this occurs due to your love, you have honored and glorified your God. You have grown more righteous and loving in your obedience, and you have lived a life more precious to God than any of you could have lived in love and service to another.
One last point that is absolutely crucial, but again, runs completely against anything the media teaches, which we must not only learn, but trust God enough to follow. We are bombarded by the idea today that we are to be self-sufficient, and independent—even if in a relationship—when things aren't going well for us in the relationship, we quickly leave and find what is better for us. It is very, "in vogue" to play the field in love, keeping your independence and changing partners to suit your interests, or before getting too serious. It is considered a weakness to actually show a need or reliance upon another today. The feminist movement, especially places an immense amount of pressure on women to be self-reliant and independent. Let's see how God feels about independence and relationships: 1 Corinthians 6:19; Isaiah 43:1. First of all, He says in our love to Him, we are completely His—we belong to Him. But does He expect that same kind of surrender to one another as mates? 1 Corinthians 7:4; Song of Songs 6:3. God is very clear about this fact. When we join with another person intimately, we no longer belong only to ourselves. We are no longer independent, we literally belong to another person. Does that scare you? Seem unfair? Only because the world has taught you to be scared; only because the world has taught you that it is better to be independent of everyone. In actuality, not only is it the most beautiful and complete giving of oneself in total love to say I am not my own, I belong to you now. But it is actually one of the greatest needs and desires deep in each of our souls to know we belong to another. (Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév, Psychology Today) This is what a real choice to love entails. Not a fear of losing personal freedom in commitment to another, but, gaining more freedom and joy in giving myself completely to another person. Knowing I belong right where I am; knowing I have purpose in the life of another. Does this not teach us to love and sacrifice as Christ did, when He completely gave Himself to us—lived His entire life for us—wanting and asking for the same total surrender in return. That is the true picture of real love; that is the love of fairytales and love stories; that is the love we all truly desire to have and give. But it takes real commitment and work to make it a reality. Your mentality must be: I belong to that person; that person completely belongs to me; good, bad, indifferent, we are in this to the end; it is my life's goal to love, cherish, and heal my mate, not leave them when I am no longer having fun. The world says love is emotional bliss, a perpetually happy relationship, and having our needs met—unless you mess up, or someone better comes along, or you are just tired of the struggle, until irreconcilable differences give me a reason to search for my happiness somewhere else. Nothing is irreconcilable when two people love as Christ, and are totally given to one another. Irreconcilable differences are just a chance to show and grow real love. The world’s love is full of insecurity, anger, frustration and literally more times than not, ends in destruction.
God says love is choosing to join with someone else, in total abandonment and giving of one's self; belonging to one another; putting each other first; choosing to help one another through any trouble, failure, or short-coming, without ever being discouraged enough to leave them, and never considering anyone else over them for a lifetime, because you have chosen them to be your everything. In choosing to place this honor and commitment on that person, you see and feel the worth, and the love for that person that goes far beyond anything people feel in their selfish pursuit of more and better, as they live independently striving for happiness. It is against the grain; it is radical, but it is God's Word, and it has proven to be psychologically sound after 2000 years.
It comes down to this people: do you trust Him more than society? Decide that you belong to that person right now. Recommit yourself to whatever it takes to help, heal, and love them. Decide that you truly belong to them for life, and that they truly belong to you. Decide you will not give up until you are truly one. That is what fairytales are made of—make your fairytale come true. You cannot do it without Christ loving through you. Trust Him, ask Him, to help you.
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