Wednesday, July 1, 2015
"On Fire": What 'I Love You' (Biblically) Acts Like. (Part 2)
For those of you how aren't on my devotional list...
I do recommend that you hit me up (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that I can send you last week's "Marital Covenant Thursday" installment. It basically gets into what it really means when I Corinthians 13:4 says that "Love is longsuffering". It's so odd to me that although that is the "first ingredient of love", it's one of the main reasons---if not *the main reason*---why couples end their marriage. Here the Bible is saying that in order to love someone, not only suffering but *suffering long* is required and yet, when people decide that they don't want to do that...they're out. Even in spite of what they promised God they would do.
Yeah, I know. That's not a rosy way to start off today's message but that doesn't make it any less true and the Word tells us that it's truth that makes us free (John 8:31-32). And on that note, I'm back with the "Part 2" about what saying "I love you" *really means* based on the Bible's standards; not all of this straight-up foolishness that the world is talking about. Especially as of late (Romans 1). SMH.
You ready? Let's get to it!
LOVE FOLLOWS THE BIBLICAL MODEL
"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them."---Ephesians 5:1-7(NKJV)
Initially, when I was planning to write this section, I was going to share the instructions that are laid out for husbands and wives towards the end of Ephesians 5. However, as I'm sitting down to pen this, I get why the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:12) had other plans. Being that the purpose of this blog is to help women prepare for marital covenant, the first thing that *we should do* is adhere to the commands in Ephesians 5:1-7.
Although all of it is pertinent and relevant (of course it is), what stood out to me the most was actually the last sentence. Not only does the Bible tell us to not fornicate---that we are *not* walking in love when we do---but it is also telling us to not be partakers with those who choose to live in that lifestyle.
There are some women I know who feel like it's OK to compromise sexually in hopes that doing wrong will bring their boyfriends over to the right. Nothing about that is healthy or biblically-sound. In fact, the Word actually says that it's a wife's godly conduct in marriage that can actually influence a man to come closer to the Lord (I Peter 3:1-6). So, if you're not currently following the biblical model for love, it really doesn't matter how much you say "I love you" to someone. In the kingdom of God...you don't.
Another point? Being that Ephesians 5 tells us to "walk in love", it's important to pair that up with "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way." (Psalm 37:23-NKJV). If you're striving to walk in love, you are not rushing. You are not pushing. You are not demanding your own way (if you check out the Love Chapter, it tells us that love does not do that--I Corinthians 13:5). Someone who truly loves walks. They go just where God wants them to. They keep up with the pace that the Father requires. Regardless of what they may want. Regardless of what they see. Real lovers walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) whether God requires that to be *towards* someone OR...away from them. (Ouch! And amen!)
Another note that's important to mention is Ephesians 5 speaks of love being a sacrifice. We are going to get deeper into that before this blog is over. I just wanted to bring it up now to emphasis how important making sacrifices in a *real love relationship* actually is.
LOVE REFLECTS THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."---Galatians 5:22-23(NKJV)
Uh-huh. I can only imagine how many marriages could be saved if couples in trouble went to counseling (Proverbs 12:15 & 24:6) and the counselor spent a significant amount of time on the characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit. If you pay close attention, all of these things are connected in ways that are oftentimes underestimated. Self-control and gentleness lead to faithfulness. Faithfulness and goodness lead to kindness. Kindness and longsuffering lead to (internal) peace. Peace and joy lead to love. (You can't have real love without the presence of peace and joy. That's critical to keep in mind!)
Yeah, pretty much all of us (ALL OF US) could stand to improve in each and every one of these areas. However, there's a pretty good chance that there is one or two in particular that you know you could use some significant work on.
How kind are you? Kind people are considerate and helpful. How much peace do you have? A telling sign that you're at peace is if you know how to be content (Hebrews 13:5). And what about gentleness? Two definitions of it that are crucial to wife preparation are "easily managed" (Colossians 3:17) and a surprising one: "gradual". It basically speaks again to walking in love rather than jumping ahead to where *you think* your relationship should be vs. where *God knows* it ought to go. The Message Version of Acts 1:7 tells us that timing is of God and what he'll give us in the meantime is the Holy Spirit in order to lead, guide and direct us (John 12:46-AMP). And one of the things that the Holy Spirit shows us is how to be gentle (Philippians 4:5). How to not be so "rough" and "severe". How to allow things to evolve...organically and naturally. Even and some ways especially when it comes to love.
LOVE MAKES SACRIFICES
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."---John 3:16(NKJV)
I currently know of a married couple where the husband has completely abandoned his wife. I mean, literally. And yet, he's still going to church as if everything is cool. To me, that is the perfect example of what a hard heart is like. If you can walk into a place of worship and not feel convicted about failing to care for the person you promised God that you would nourish and cherish until death, something is definitely wrong. Some "spiritual heart surgery" (Ezekiel 36:26) is certainly needed.
I've worked with the couple before. Therefore, I know a lot of the back story. The wife once had an affair and the husband has chosen to not fully forgive her. That's pretty dangerous being that the Word makes it crystal clear that the only way we can be forgiven by God is if we choose to forgive others (that's *the only way* it's going to work--Matthew 6:14-15). It's also an indication that he is missing a point that so many of us do: you cannot truly love someone without being willing to make some pretty extreme sacrifices. Sometimes that's your pride. Sometimes that's your opinion. Always that's your flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).
I mean, just look at how God loves us. He sacrificed his Son so that we could have a chance at eternal life. And real talk? When we claim to love another person in a "romantic" kind of way, the same mentality should apply. Their eternal life should trump...anything and everything else!
One definition of sacrifice is "the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim". Another one is "the thing so surrendered or devoted". This is something that a lot of single women miss. They are not to make the same kind of sacrifices that wives do (don't act like a wife if you are not one yet...on any level). HOWEVER, they do need to be ready, willing and able to relinquish and surrender whatever God requires of them, at any given time, no matter how painful.
If that's surrendering a relationship with an non-believer, so be it.
If that's surrendering sexual pleasure for spiritual wholeness, so be it.
If that's surrendering "a type" for *the best*, so be it.
Cain got into quite a bind by offering up to God what *he thought* God should have (Genesis 4). And yet, a sacrifice is only really and truly one when you're willing to give whatever *and all* of what God asks of you. At any given time. At any given moment. Again, ultimately so that you and "he" can have access to eternal life. Even if that means not sharing a life together here on this earth. (Whew! I know, right?)
LOVE HAS LONGEVITY
"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."---I Corinthians 13:4-8(NKJV)
One of the reasons why I think that God hates divorce so much (oh and there are many) is because when two people stand before him, the officiant and others and profess to love one another, Scripture reveals to us that one of the true characteristics of love is that it never fails. One definition of fail is "to be or become deficient or lacking; be insufficient or absent; fall short".
That's why it really doesn't bother me whenever I hear stories of couples who did not say "I love you" until after they were engaged or until their wedding day. Shoot, there are numerous guys that I've ignorantly wasted those three precious words on and where are they now? Not with me (LOL).
That's actually why I don't like it when people say "I used to love" or "I fell out of love" with someone. I have a shirt that says "Gravitation is not responsible for falling in love." Albert Einstein once said that. And he's right. You don't fall in love like it's some kind ditch. Bottom line, if you "used to be in love" then there's a pretty good chance that you never were. This is why following your heart, *especially when it comes to relationships*, is basically ridiculous. Or as the Scriptures say *deceitful* (Jeremiah 17:9). It'll have you out here thinking you're caught up in the real thing when really it's a counterfeit...a mirage.
With what I've come to learn about relationships, if someone were to ask me now about how many men I've loved, I would say "I *thought* I loved four. Based on what I know now though, it's basically only been one (aside from my late fiance'). And I stand on that because no matter what has transpired or the challenges we've experienced, even as friends, I continue to love him. As a matter of fact, things are not "deficient" or "absent"...they only grow more and more each day. And how they grow is that whether with or without me, I want God's absolute best for him. And the effort that I put into our friendship centers around that reality.
Yeah, if love does not have the ultimate form of longevity, guess what? It ain't really love.
NOT. AT. ALL.
LOVE IS AS STRONG AS DEATH
"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame."---Song of Solomon 8:6(NKJV)
That "jealousy is as cruel as the grave" part deserves its own message. But let me stay on task.
I recently heard a woman attempt to justify her divorce by saying "Sometimes 'til death do us part' is not a physical death but the death of the relationship." Nice try. That *might* fly if Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 did not say to not make a vow to God if you intend on breaking it, Matthew 19:6 didn't say that what God has joined *no man* should separate and I Corinthians 7:10-11 didn't say that people are not to get divorced. Period.
And as I wrap this up, that's what's so...powerful about this particular verse in the Song of Solomon. Even when a married couple may *feel* like the relationship is over...that things have died, love is just as strong. Shoot, God is love (I John 4:8&16). That makes love even stronger than death. That definitely makes me look at "O Death, where is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:33-NKJV) differently. No matter what (NO MATTER WHAT) happens in a marriage union, love should always supersede death.
If everlasting is not what you're willing to commit to, for the sake of both you and "him", please keep "I love you" to yourself until/unless you can (and only God can really reveal to you whether or not you're actually ready to do that---James 1:5). One of my favorite definitions of death is a Christian Science one: "the false belief that life comes to an end". Love does not die. And so a love relationship is not designed to either. This means that both parties must be willing to do all that they can to keep the relationship going. So that people can see what love really and truly is.
When you tell a man "I love you" if you can't honestly mean all that it entails, *don't*...
And you know what? Don't pressure him to either.
Wait until you understand what true love is...
Wait until you know that you mean it...
Until you have *God's permission and blessing* to say it.
It will mean *so much more* to both God and him...if/when you do.