Thursday, 3 March 2011

What is Love?

The word love tends to be a rather elusive term. I love my wife, I love chocolate, I love to play the piano, I'd love to play golf well (as if that is ever going to happen) and most importantly I love the Lord. In each of these cases the word love is a noun representing a fondness for or an intense affection for the subject of the sentence.

1Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient, love is kind, love is not self-seeking, and it keeps no record of wrongs. This gives us a much clearer understanding of what it means to exhibit love another person. Love now becomes a verb. The best definition of love results in the most important event in human history, i.e. Christ’s death on the cross. His sacrifice is the ultimate definition.

Paul Tripp provides an excellent definition of what love shaped to the cross (cruciform) should look like. “Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.”

If love were a onetime event, a willing self-sacrifice for the good of another might be possible. I could help an old lady across the street (hey at my age that is not as easy as it sounds). I could give up a few cups of Starbucks to throw some extra money in the offering plate at Christmas time. I could make and take a meal to an ailing friend (particularly if he likes chocolate). These are onetime events. Wait a minute marriage is a onetime event; at least it is supposed to be.

Okay so let me get this straight, I am to willingly sacrifice for the good of my wife and she doesn’t have to do something nice in return? Even though she may be disrespectful and treat me as though I had the brain of a carrot, I’m supposed to make willing sacrifices for her good? Who on earth would do that? Christ.

And just why would I want to do that? Ephesians 5:21 tells me that I should want to do it out of “reverence for Christ”. I should want to willingly sacrifice for the good of another out of gratitude for what Christ has done for me. That must be my motivation. That is what would enable me to be loving though it is not reciprocated or deserved.

And just how do you think I could pull that off? Only through the help of the Holy Spirit who resides in me, for it is only in His strength and power that I do the good that I do.

It is much easier to love chocolate than a person. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

We Don't Need Counseling - or Do We?

A recent blog from http://themarriagecounselingblog,com was entitled “Are You Ready for a Marriage Counselor?” “…many years ago (it used to be said) if you needed a marriage counselor then perhaps it was too late.” The blog contended that modern day counselors spend more time teaching couples how to resolve their own issues. It went on to say that “If a partnership is under stress, it is generally because the parties lack the tools to deal with the issues, not because there is a loss of feelings for the other party. Furthermore it suggested that if a couple is seeking a counselor to save a marriage that is the wrong approach. Unfortunately it didn’t give the right approach for couples who find themselves near the end of their relationship.

If couples could adopt this attitude toward counseling and seek help the first time they sense that all is not well in Camelot many marriages could be salvaged. Counseling for many is a last resort, so much emotional damage has been incurred that the situations are usually hopeless. In most states it is harder to get a driver’s license than a marriage license. Many couples spend little or no time in pre-marriage counseling and often grow up in a dysfunctional household where there was no modeling of what a healthy marriage looks like. It is no wonder that the divorce rate is pushing 50%.

Seeking a counselor early in one’s marriage is a form of preventative medication. Certainly marriage seminars, books, classes, DVDs and blogs can offer similar training if a couple is willing to put in the effort.

Here is where my bias enters the picture. Most conflict stems from what is affectionately referred to in Christian circles as “a heart issue.” All the skill training in the world will not help someone overcome the “it’s all about me” syndrome. In particular this is true for those couples who have drifted far apart. So while I hold out little hope for non-Christians who have let their marriage deteriorate beyond repair there is “some” hope for a Christian couple who is willing to surrender their marriage to God.

Why only “some hope” you might ask? Because even people who call themselves Christians have a hard time humbling themselves; they are unwilling to turn their lives and marriage over to God; to put His principles into practice; and to acknowledge that they need to change whether their partner is willing to change or not. It means more time in God’s Word and more time in prayer – individually and as a couple.