In the previous entry to this thread, we considered the truth that an honorable Christian man cultivates healthy love. and we described what that kind of biblical love is not. In this post, we consider what biblical love is.
Love is a beautiful thing when it conforms to God’s Word. Love is an ugly thing when it fails to conform to God’s Word. If you search the Scriptures for any kind of definition of love, you will find a simple statement that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Since God Himself is love, then God is the authority when it comes to defining and describing love. And because this is true, beautiful love is that which conforms to God and His standard of love. Healthy, biblical, and beautiful love conforms to God’s idea, while unhealthy, unbiblical, ugly love does not.
When we speak, then, of loving in a biblical and healthy way, we must understand that true love is that which conforms to God’s standard of love as described for us in the Bible. The Bible speaks much about this topic of love. There are specific passages that describe how biblical love acts (1 Corinthians 13). There are examples of what biblical love looks like (1 John 4). And there are also various teachings of how biblical love applies to different relationships (Ephesians 5-6).
Since God is the chief example of biblical love, and since God’s Word helps us understand what true, biblical love is, we must seek to discern what God says about true, biblical love, and strive to practice it. Below are just three simple ideas of how biblical love is described for us.
Biblical Love is Volitional
Biblical love does not focus solely on the physical attractiveness of another person, nor on one’s emotional connection to another person. Biblical love focuses on one’s will in response to other people. The chief example of this is God Himself who not only is love in perfection, but who perfectly loves us. His love for us is perfectly demonstrated through the cross. While we were still sinners, in rebellion to Him, God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave His life for us at Calvary (Romans 5:8). There is nothing inherently good about us that would make God do this. He chose to love us because that is what love does.
Ephesians 5:25 speaks of how Christ especially loved the church and gave Himself for it. God did not love us because we were physically attractive to Him, or because He saw some benefit to gain from loving us. He did not love us because of anything within us. God chose to love us because He is love, and love simply chooses to love. Scripturally speaking, God chooses to love the world of people in general, but He also chooses to love His children specifically. Just like a parent may say he loves all children, but he loves his own children especially.
Volitional love is easy for God to practice, but very difficult for humans. This is due to the sinfulness of our own hearts. Sin has tarnished our view of love. This is part of our depravity. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, even our thought processes have been stained by sin. Humanity has trained itself to believe that love chooses to love only if there is something to gain from it. We will love people if they please us, or give us things, or are useful to us.
We view love as something that is more physical or emotional than it is volitional. Our culture has trained us to believe that when two people are physically attracted to each other, then that means they love each other. Or when two people really “connect” then there is a loving emotional attraction between them. However, volitional love (the kind that the Bible describes) loves the physically unattractive as well as the attractive. It chooses to love based on God’s choice to love us as unattractive, sinful rebels.
This kind of love is illustrated for us by the true story of Hosea in the Old Testament. He was told to marry a woman named Gomer, even though she would turn on him and do wicked things against him. She was immoral and adulterous, even after bearing him several children. Yet God tells Hosea in Hosea 3:1, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” And Hosea went and brought her back to him and chose to love her.
God was giving Israel a picture of His love for them. That nation which was hand-chosen by God, given promises and covenants and blessings, had largely forsaken Him. Yet God still chose to love Israel, that adulterous and idolatrous people – not because of who they were, but because of who He is!
Let’s apply this to our lives as men. Husbands, the older we get, the less physically attractive we become. We lose hair on our heads while we may gain hair in our ears. We lose muscle tone while we gain flab. Our physical appearance changes over time due to the natural course of life. The same principle is true of our wives. Their physical appearance will change over the course of time as well. Biblical love, volitional love, chooses to love her, not based on the physical figure your wife possesses and maintains, but because of God’s love for us. We love our wives because He loves us. Our love for our wives is not tied up in her physical loveliness, but it is tethered tightly to God’s example of love for us, and our subsequent commitment to love Him. This is not some boring love, either. This kind of love that is based on God’s love is vibrant, exciting, and utterly fulfilling as a husband.
At the same time, while we love our wives in this kind of way, we will view them as attractive, and long to spend time with them, connecting with them emotionally and physically. Our world views it backwards, though. The world puts the physical and emotional in front of the spiritual. But it is that very notion that has disrupted God's design for marriage. Marriage is based on commitment and sacrifice, not physical attractiveness and "compatibility." If we as men grow in our love for our wives as God has chosen to love us, our love for our wives will be vibrant, strong, and immensely pleasurable. But we must choose to love as God loves.
Also, loving our wives is an exact expression of loving God. If there is no love for your wife, then there is no love for your God. First John 4:19-20 says (I will insert a marriage application), We love (our wife) because (God) first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his [wife], he is a liar; for he who does not love his [wife] whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment have we from him; whoever loves God must also love his [wife].”
Some may reply, “you don’t know the wife I have and how she nags, or how she looks.” That kind of reasoning views a lack of biblical love as being reasonable and excusable. However, God did not put those kinds (or other kinds) of excuses in the Bible. God did not say, “husbands, love your wives, unless she gets old, overweight, loses her figure, and becomes a nag.”
God did say in Ephesians 5:25, “husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” Also in Colossians 3:19 it tells husbands to “love your wives, and do not be bitter against them.” As a husband, you are to model Christ’s love for the church. This kind of love is volitional at its core, but it also leads to a second aspect of this kind of love. We will consider that next time.
For now, men, how well do you love? Are you an honorable man who loves others in a biblical way? Husbands, do you strive to love your wife the way God demands you do? While no husband is perfect, there should be a strong desire to love your wife volitionally, in such a way that resembles God's love for us. You should be growing in your love for your wife day be day, for the glory of God. Be honorable in your display of love.