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Staying in love

by Eddie Thompson
Thursday, June 13, 2013 | 3 yrs old

What does it take to fall in love? Apparently, not much more than a pulse.  Perhaps we should be asking instead, “What does it take to stay in love?”. That is a profoundly different question, and as rare as it seems to happen, staying in love for the long term is an intense and powerful desire for all of us. It doesn’t seem possible anymore because our culture has made it so difficult to stay in love, but why? Here are some possibilities:

  • Few of us have been exposed to or seen healthy, long-lasting relationships.
  • We live in a "do unto others" culture. Do unto others what they deserve; do unto others what they do unto you; do unto others as your mood would have it; do unto others until they see things your way; do unto others until you wear them down and they agree to your demands.
  • The media has modeled unhealthy relationships.
  • It wasn’t what we experienced growing up.

Andy Stanley posed this interesting question and answer: What would it take for a child to grow up in a nurturing environment, leave adolescence and be equipped to engage in a healthy relationships in the future for the long-term? They would need:

  • Respect
  • Encouragement
  • Comfort
  • Security
  • Support
  • Acceptance
  • Approval
  • Appreciation
  • Attention

That’s a big list. And whether we are aware of it or not, when these needs aren’t met in a family of origin, we come into a marriage relationship looking for them.  We try and squeeze them out of the other person, and when they’re missing, feelings for our spouse can quickly evaporate. So what’s the answer? Recapturing the old feelings of love? Don’t waste your time.

Jesus, the very architect of marriage who knows all about relationships, gives us a new model.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you... (New King James Version, John 13:34)

This is radical because in this verse Jesus takes the word love, a word we normally think of as a noun, and changes into a verb. That changes everything. It forever changes how we approach relationships, especially marriage. Love is a verb; it’s action; it’s something you do, not something you feel. Now we have to ask, “If I’m to love my spouse the way Jesus loved me, then how did He do that?”

Philippians 2:3-8 spells it out:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Here's the way Jesus loved us:

  • He did nothing through selfish ambition.
  • He esteemed others better than Himself.
  • He looked out for the interest of others.
  • He never used the “God card” even though He could have.
  • He intentionally served.
  • He came in our likeness.
  • He gave His life away.

Is that the way you love your spouse? Me neither, but it’s what I want to do. It’s entirely possible because He lives in us. He’s urging us to do for our spouse what He did for us. Without Him, it’s just humans doing the best they can, and most of the time, that’s not very good.

Falling in love just takes a pulse, but staying in love takes a plan – one the Savior modeled for us.