God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us. – Romans 5:8
If someone were to ask you, “Why do you love your wife?” or “Why do you love your husband?” – what would you say?
Most men would mention their wife’s beauty, her sense of humor, her kindness, her inner strength. They might talk about her cooking, her knack for decorating, or what a good mother she is.
Women would probably say something about their husband’s good looks or his personality. They’d commend him for his steadiness and consistent character. They’d say they love him because he’s always there for them. He’s generous. He’s helpful.
But what if over the course of years, your wife or husband stopped being every one of those things. Would you still love them? Based on your answers above, the only logical response would be “no.” If your reasons for loving your spouse all have something to do with his or her qualities – and then those same qualities suddenly or gradually disappear – your basis for love is over.
The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.
The Bible refers to this kind of love by using the Greek word agape (pronounced uh-GOP-ay).
It differs from the other types of love, which are – phileo (friendship) and eros (sexual love). Both friendship and sex have an important place in marriage, of course, and are definitely part of the house you build together as husband and wife. But if your marriage totally depends on having common interests or enjoying a healthy sex life, then the foundation of your relationship is unstable.
Phileo and eros are more responsive in nature and can fluctuate based upon feelings. Agape love, on the other hand, is selfless and unconditional. So unless this kind of love forms the foundation of your marriage, the wear and tear of time will destroy it. Agape love is in “sickness and health” love, “for richer or poorer” love, “for better or worse” love. It is the only kind of love that is true love.
That’s because this is God’s kind of love. He doesn’t love use because we are lovable but because He is so loving. The Bible says, “In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). If He insisted that we prove ourselves worthy of His love, we would fail miserably. But God’s love is a choice He makes completely on His own. It’s something we receive from Him and then share with others. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
If a man says to his wife, “I have fallen out of love with you,” he is actually saying, “I never loved you unconditionally to begin with.” His love was based on feelings or circumstances rather than commitment. That’s the result of building a marriage on phileo or eros love. There must be a stronger foundation than mere friendship or sexual attraction. Unconditional love, agape love, will not be swayed by time or circumstance.
That’s not to say, though, that love which began for the wrong reasons cannot be restored and redeemed. In fact, when you rebuild your marriage with agape as its foundation, then the friendship and romantic aspects of your love become more endearing than ever before. When your enjoyment of each other as best friends and lovers is based on unwavering commitment, you will experience an intimacy that cannot be achieved any other way.
But you will struggle and fail to attain this kind of marriage unless you allow God to begin growing His love within you. Love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7) does not come from within. It can only come from God.
The Scriptures say that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). This is God’s kind of love. And thankfully – by your choice – it can become your kind of love. But first you must receive it and share it.
And don’t be surprised, when your spouse begins living confidently under its shade, if he or she doesn’t become even more lovable to you than you remember. You will no longer say, “I love you because …” You will now say, “I love you, period.”
Do something out of the ordinary today for your spouse --- something that proves (to you and to them) that your love is based on your choice and nothing else. Wash her car. Clean the kitchen. Buy his favorite dessert. Fold the laundry. Demonstrate love to them for the sheer joy of being their partner in marriage.
He who trusts in the Lord, loving kindness shall surround him. (Psalm 32:10)