What is Love?

Never Say I Love You Again! Why?  You might be telling a lie. 

Do you know what love is? Most Americans identify love with a feeling of goodwill, admiration, sexual excitement or attachment to someone.  In fact, if you asked 10 different people to tell you what love is, you’d probably get 10 different answers.

The word Love in the sentence “I Love You” is not much to get excited about, since it’s only a feeling that you wish to express at any given moment.  Real enduring love, when you love someone, has little to do with feelings, but is an action, choice or decision that when carried out, proves itself without a need for words.

Our society has a problem with superficiality.  We spray perfume on our cesspools, (metaphorically of course), and sugar coat all our medicine, devalue hard work in favor of either winning the lottery or becoming a rock or basketball star.  It has become so commonplace to speak without understanding the commitment or meaning of our words that we toss promises around like beanbags, and when one breaks we sweep up the loose beans and go buy another one.

This time I’m talking about the commitment of marriage.  That thing that we dream with starry eyes of being able to do one day, then spend years running away from.  What’s worse, we spend a lifetime repeating those same mistakes!   We rush to promise our hearts to a knight in galvanized armor, only to find the shine was purchased at the local hardware store.  Could it be that our dreams are so without substance because we don’t have a clear idea of what marriage, or love, really is?

What is Love?

Love is not lust, or sexual passion, and it is not the warm, gushy feeling that goes along with romance and admiration.

True Biblical love is not a feeling at all, it’s a decision. Another word for Love in the Bible is “obedience” or translated, it would be – commitment.

Why?  Jesus said to his followers:  “If you love me, you will obey me.” God said in the Old Testament:  “If you love me, you won’t worship any other “god” but me.”  Of course, He also said there WERE no other gods, but He knew people would always believe the traveling salesmen coming through town peddling statues representing some mystical creature that supposedly had power and could grant wishes and blessings.  (We still have them today, in tabloids and advertisements, promising psychic’s guidance and love, cult religions and our fascination with witchcraft.)

What God was saying is, love is a commitment to someone even when you don’t feel anything. Even when the person you are following makes demands on you that you don’t understand or are hard to follow.  Even when it means making a sacrifice of something you love to do.

In other languages around the world, the different kinds of love have different names, so they can be expressed more exactly.  In the United States, we use the one word for all the different feelings and meanings that love can pertain to, and it gets very confusing.  Not all love lasts forever, not all love is divine or sacred.

What must be asked before a marriage or relationship is “Are you making the promise of commitment to this person to the end of your earthly life, based on a decision to love, and will you be able to carry it out for that length of time?”

Wow, that sounds a lot more serious doesn’t it?  How many people would actually get married if they heard it said that way?

Remember the TV commercial for Trane air conditioning systems?  A man in a diner says to his best friend that instead of buying his girlfriend a diamond, he bought her the top of the line A/C system that is supposed to last a very long time, because he wants to show her that he’s in the relationship for a very long time.

Are you able to be faithful for your entire earthly life to one person? Are you able to resist the temptation to sample pleasures with others?  You can answer yes to these questions, IF you’ve based your love decision with your head, not your loins.  If you’re already up to your eyeballs in romance, lust and all the physical reasons to get married, what can you do now to decide if you can answer yes to these questions?

One of the first and best tests I recommend is to look at your track record, and that of your intended mate’s.  Have you been faithful before?  What is it that “turns you on?”  Do you get carried away by a good-looking body, movie stars or musicians?  If someone you totally admire and find attractive were to suddenly come to town and tell you that you’re the only mate they’ll ever love and they’d even be willing to pay a million dollars to have you for their own…would you immediately refuse them to stay faithful to the one you have chosen?  Or would you have to take a few seconds to think about it?

If you hesitate AT ALL, you can’t be sure you’d remain faithful in all situations.

Another way to find out is knowing your feelings on being in a compromising situation with someone of another sex. Would you allow yourself to be alone with someone else, or in a situation where you could be asked or tempted to steal a kiss, or pretend for even a second that you shared some love chemistry with that other person?  The answer had better be a very loud and certain NO! 

Women or men who go to bars without their mate, or to places where people can interact on a sexual level, are asking for disaster, no matter how determined they are to stay faithful.  Let me repeat that.  If you or your mate, or anyone you know, for that matter, would put themselves in a position and give themselves the chance to have any kind of physical stimulation (with or without actual physical contact – even as “harmless” as dancing or holding hands), with someone other than their spouse, they are NOT READY to commit to marriage. The reason is, it will more than likely end up in divorce in a short time, and whether you admit it or not, marriages and divorces only complicate your life.  They don’t help by providing support and a home temporarily until you decide on a career or finish school.  They don’t help by providing you with a child to love and to love you back.

Ruined marriages steal a part of your soul, and leave a tangled knot of your spiritual “string” inside of you, that is almost impossible to straighten back out.  In other words, you’re making a contract for a future hang up with anxiety, misery and defeat.

If you’ve never sat down and made a list of your goals (taking note of your strengths, weaknesses and talents), then you really should.  I’m sure no one ever sat down and planned their life like this:  I think I’ll get married 3 times and leave 2 of the marriages with children and a few death threats and Family and Children’s Services taking a child, etc…

Your plan should go like this:  My strengths, talents and dreams are (this), my weaknesses to be avoided are (this), and the way I’m going to achieve my goals is by following these steps (here), and in the end my success will be that I’ve had (happiness, money, children or whatever you want to fill in the blank with).

Suppose you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and everything seems rosy.  You are planning on getting married soon.  What are you preparing?  What are you checking out to be sure this union will work for a lifetime?

The following is a list of self-checks that you must do, and things you must set in order, to have the perfect wedding and marriage everyone hopes for.

You must ask your future spouse the following questions:

What do you feel is important about paying bills?  Who will pay the bills in our home?  What do you feel about working outside the home as opposed to staying home to raise children?  Do you want to have children?  How many?  What methods of discipline do you believe in?  What is your religion?  Do we believe the same things spiritually?  What do you expect of me to be a good mate?  What constitutes being unfaithful in your mind?  Would you ever kiss another man/woman outside of our marriage?  Would you ever consider divorce?  What would you do if I were to abuse you physically, verbally or mentally?  (Make sure they know what you would answer to that question also.)  It’s a good idea to define in detail what you consider abuse, and make sure your spouse knows you will not tolerate it or disrespect.

Discuss each of these subjects in detail, telling your feelings and beliefs as well as making a note of theirs.  Take special notice of which areas they disagree with you in, and spend more time discussing those areas.  If it is something you cannot afford to disagree about, something must be done prior to making wedding plans to find a common ground of action.

You should also determine in advance what amount of money you will not drop below keeping in a savings account for emergencies, and what amount you will not go beyond in spending for fun or luxuries.  You should determine the best way to pay all your bills on time, and keep as a goal to reduce debt.  NOT making more debt.  Credit cards should be only for people who have proven themselves capable of keeping their bills paid and a positive balance in their checking account for at least one year before obtaining credit. The reason for this is that if you or your intended spouse is not capable of keeping the credit paid out, you’ll know it when the “new” wears off of the thrill of paying your bills on time.   This will happen after about 6 months.

You should both agree on where you ultimately want to live, and in what style (meaning income level or luxury level), and how long you are willing to work to get to that level.

The areas where you will experience the highest level of discomfort and argument are:

How to raise your children
How to deal with your mate’s relatives and your friends
How to spend money

These subjects should be discussed over and over, experimenting with different scenarios until you’ve talked out all you can think of in the way of interference or possible crisis situations.  After these things have been worked out, you’re ready to prepare for the wedding.

Preparing for the wedding:

This means setting aside income and securing a home and transportation BEFORE the marriage begins, while you are both still living at home.  IF YOU WILL DO THIS, YOU WILL ELIMINATE THE BIGGEST STUMBLING BLOCK AMERICAN FAMILIES FACE TODAY. 

Too many young people are anxious to get married to become physically comfortable, and they leave out the part about being able to afford their desires, and believe they’ll catch up or make up the difference soon.  It never happens.  You’ll forever be robbing Peter to pay Paul, as they say.

Another important thing young couples leave out until they become more mature, is life insurance.  You should insure each of your family members (the couple and their children), with enough to pay for the burial and make up one year’s lost income from the death of the working member.  This is a bare minimum, taking into consideration that the grief process takes about 6 months to really begin, and it may be 2 yrs. before the surviving spouse is ready to work and take over where the other spouse left off.

Your burials should be planned in advance, and your will written by the time you marry!  A living revocable trust is a very good idea to have along with a will, because it will protect your children from probate court and ensures the use of your belongings when it’s most needed without waiting for a judge to decide what the surviving family members may have or not have.

If you have prepared this far, you’re now ready to experience the joys and sorrows of living constantly with another person who is different from you.  Believe it or not, it will not always be fun or produce joy.  Much of your everyday life will be repetition and duty.  THAT, dearest friend, IS what life is about. If you can’t handle that, you’re not prepared for life.  If you are willing to succeed DESPITE that, then you will find limitless opportunities for growth, joy and experience that will make your life full and productive.

You’ve heard it said that marriage is give and take?  But most people you know have said it seems more giving than taking?  Remember the bottom line, when the going gets rough.  You’re making a commitment towards an end goal, and you’ve promised that all obstacles are worth experiencing to take this journey through life with this person you’ve chosen.

This is love between a man and a woman.  There are many more kinds of love, and knowing the difference between them can mean the difference between a happy life, or hell on earth.

Back to Bible Lessons             Back to Home Page