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Choose Love

by Josh Stilwell | Published February 13, 2021

Love is in the air! Or, in my mind at least. I recently finished preaching through Ephesians 5 and so I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage. And then of course, Valentine’s Day is upon us and the stores are filled with red hearts and overpriced roses. 

It’s been very striking to me to see how different the biblical concept of love, even romantic love, is from the popular idea of love portrayed in romantic comedies. The differences are many, but this Valentine’s Day, I want to zero in on one.

Pop culture has adopted a very pagan view of love. Love is something that comes upon a person in waves of chemical excitement. Or it doesn’t. Cupid either shoots you with his bow or he does not. You’re at the mercy of this intangible thing we call “love” to either strike you or not. 

In contrast, God commands spouses to love each other. The apostle Paul demands, “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25a) and also tells wives to “love their husbands” (Titus 2:4b). God doesn’t command us to do things that we can’t do. That’s why there’s no command in the Bible to fly like Peter Pan or breathe underwater. What God commands you to do, He empowers you to do. So if we are commanded to love, we must be enabled to love. Ultimately, love is a choice. What fellowship hath Christ with Cupid?

The implications of this are vast and varying. But I just want to focus on two.

First, before marriage, you must choose love. I’m not advocating for arranged marriages. I think it’s important for a couple to be attracted to one another. But I also think it’s important for people looking for a spouse to be governed by something better and higher than chemical impulses. 

Truth is the fuel of our affections. So before you can have a romantic flame, you need some objective logs to throw on the fire. Is she following Christ? How does he want to raise the kids? Are our doctrinal convictions compatible? These and many similar questions should hold more weight than any emotional attraction. Because when the initial infatuation wears off, it’s the grace-enabled will to love that will allow the marriage to last.

This brings me to my second application. In marriage, choose love. It annoys me that romance novels always end with the marriage. That’s when the romance is just beginning! I just wish Jane Austen had written a novel where the couple gets married in (let’s say) chapter 3, has the honeymoon in chapter 4, and then in chapter 5 the real drama begins! 

One of the deacons at Alathea recently told me about a co-worker of his who had been married for several decades but had just separated from his wife. When asked what went wrong, the co-worker replied, “Oh, we just grew apart.” Cupid withdrew his arrow. Love fades. It happens. 

But God commands us to choose love even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard. Even when we’re hurt. This requires a dependency upon the Holy Spirit to help us make the choice that we don’t want to make. It’s an everyday decision to say, “Yes, Lord” and “No, self”.  

That sounds like a lot of work and effort. Why should we bother? The answer, friend, is very simple. Jesus chose to love you.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

This Valentine’s Day, choose love.

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