Friday, 6 January 2012

Degrees of Love

Bernard of Clairvaux
I recently sat in on a webinar conducted by New Life Live. One of the presenters was Dr. Dave Stoop. He outlined degrees of love which were originally developed by Bernard of Clairvaux a French monk, who was articulating various ways in which humans tend to relate to God. Stoop attempted to adapt the degrees to the marriage relationship. The first three degrees accurately describe the basis for many marriages.

First Degree:
The first degree of love is based what the other person does for you emotionally. While we are called to love the other person Bernard says, “But nature is so frail and weak that necessity compels her to love herself first; and this is carnal love, wherewith man loves himself first and selfishly…” This is the love of self for the sake of self. You are focused on your own needs. The person makes you feel good about yourself, they bring you joy and add to your emotional well being.

Second Degree:
The second degree is still “me” centered. This love stems from what the person does for you in tangible ways. The person provides a home, clothing, shelter and a certain amount of security. Or they are good with the children, they keep the home neat and tidy and take care of running the household.

Third Degree:
The third degree takes the focus off of what the relationship does for you emotionally and physically and puts the spotlight on the one you profess to love. At this point in the relationship you have learned to admire, respect and love the other person for who they are as an individual. The person desires to honor and glorify God and conducts themselves accordingly. You appreciate that they are kind, thoughtful and considerate. You recognize that their values and principles are above reproach. They are responsible and are of good character.

Marriages based on degrees one and two are going to be unfulfilling. No one human being can consistently meet all your emotional needs. It is only a matter of time before you become disenchanted. The second degree is more like a business arrangement than a marriage. I’m satisfied as long as you continue to meet my physical needs. As more and more desires and/or expectations fail to get met the less happy you are in the arrangement.

God’s plan for marriage calls for us to be other centered. Those couples who are able to attain the third degree of love realize that in their spouse God has given them a very special gift. They have learned that their emotional needs can best be met by God and that God “will supply all (their) needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19”

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