“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
As I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s a lot of crazy ideas emerged. Among them was the “free love” movement, which promoted intimacy without commitment, consequence, or condition other than everyone was agreeable to it. It was actually nothing but sexual immorality and self-indulgence wrapped up in a fancy package. Its motto was “if it feels good, do it” and its praises were sung in such songs as “Love the One You’re With” by Stephen Stills. As is the case with such things, its appeal eventually spread throughout the culture. Our culture became one of throwaway marriages and broken families since the most important consideration was what made me happy and fulfilled. If your husband or wife didn’t accomplish that, just get rid of them and find someone else.
That form of self-centered obsession has even invaded the church. We have seen divorce among formerly faithful Christians due to unfaithfulness and extramarital affairs, or indifference expressed as “I just don’t love him/her anymore”. It’s heartbreaking to watch family and friends destroy a relationship which was founded on “until death do you part”. It’s a selfish breaking of covenant with God and your spouse because the feeling is no longer there. It shows a lack of commitment to a relationship that was never taken seriously in the first place.
Similarly, we tend to treat God in a very cavalier way, someone to make us feel good until he doesn’t. How often has it been heard, “God just wants us to love him and each other?”, implying no thought of consequence or cost. God loves us, that’s true, but it is not without cost. Yet we claim his love as if it’s our entitlement with no strings attached. But as John wrote in his gospel, there was a huge cost attached to God’s demonstrating his love for us. It cost him his Son, who paid the awful price for our sins so that we may enjoy relationship with God.
The fact is there is no such thing as free love. Let me repeat that so there is no misunderstanding: LOVE IS NOT FREE. THERE IS ALWAYS A COST. Giving love unconditionally is a good and admirable thing, but someone will pay the price to do it. And in a covenant relationship, there is a big cost.
When you enter such a relationship, you are giving up your rights to do what you want, when you want, and with whom you want. In essence you are saying, “I belong to this person and they belong to me exclusively”. There are no do-overs, mulligans, or changing your mind. The love you’ve pledged is not an emotion that comes and goes. Love is an action, and it is costly. You have to fight for it constantly, sometimes against yourself.
I think back to when I was dating my wife. If I told her I loved her but chased after other women (unfortunately, I did this; I was pretty socially inept back then), why should she believe me? Her love had a cost; I had to demonstrate my love to her in order to convince her of my sincerity. We need to act in the same manner toward God. If we simply pay lip service (“I love God”) but our actions demonstrate something completely different, why wouldn’t He doubt our sincerity? Just as my wife had certain requirements I had to meet to win her love, God has established requirements we must meet to establish our relationship with him. There is a cost to the giver, but there are also conditions for the receiver.
In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul equates the marriage relationship to that of Christ and His church. Husbands are to love their wives in a sacrificial manner, just as Christ did for the church. Wives are to honor their husbands through submission to him just as the church submits to Christ. Men tend to abuse that passage and women hate it, because we have a very selfish view of the marriage relationship and a “what’s in it for me?” attitude toward it. Paul is trying to tell us that the husband honors his wife and demonstrates his love for her by being willing to sacrifice his “rights” in order to protect and nurture her. The wife honors her husband by also sacrificing her “rights” and recognizing his role as head of their home and the responsibility God has placed on him for the souls and well being of those in that household. It’s how the relationship of Christ and His church works. Christ has paid a great price to demonstrate His love for His church, and the church reciprocates by submitting to Him as Lord.
It’s time we started getting serious about our marriages and our Christianity. If your love for your husband or wife has grown cold, it’s your responsibility to rekindle love for them. Get to know them once again. Love is a verb, not a noun. If your love for God and Christ has become lukewarm, you need to rekindle that love- desperately. Go back to the Bible and get reacquainted with the God of the universe and His Son, Jesus the Lord. In both cases be willing to pay the cost. The rewards are more than worth it.