Do you believe you have to be “in love” before you marry?
For decades I warned my students about falling in love as the basis for marriage. I explained that when we’re in love our ego-boundaries collapse and we fall into each other, so to speak, emotion overriding intellect. I told them about a student who told a class that she was in love with and planned to marry a “good guy; he only does drugs on weekends.” “Are you crazy? Don’t do that!” they yelled at her. “Well, that’s just what I feel,” she replied. “I can’t help it, I’m in love with him!” But being “in love” may not be true love.
Problem is, the word “love” has different meanings. The ancient Greeks and Romans had five different words and meanings for love. There was eros, desire, longing, for the good, true and beautiful. Philia—friendly or brotherly love. Caritas, from which we get charity. Storge—family love or affection. Finally agape, which was like the covenantal, Christ-like love seen and commanded in the Bible.
Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 13: 34), (cf. Ro. 13: 8: “Love is the fulfillment of the law.”) Scriptural love wants the best for the other person; it doesn’t idolatrously cling to him or her—“I can’t help it; I love him”.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want
what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first, ”Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always, Always looks for the best,
Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. (I Corinthians 13, The Message)
I heard a preacher say that love is this way, because God is this way; God is patient, God is kind, etc., and I John 4 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God proved his love for us, says Romans 5, not by collapsing into us, but “in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” I believe that if the lady mentioned above knew the God who is love, she wouldn’t have needed to cling to a man who was not good for her.
Agape is the most important love. More than a feeling, it involves many acts of the will, decisions to do the kind and caring thing, over and over. It needs to be prayed for, as the first “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5: 22). And it is essential for listening, happy families and marriages—take it from one who’ll be 80 later this year, who’s happily “in love”, but with open eyes, and ears! As real as the law of gravity, true love is the law and blueprint of happiness.