Romance: Love your wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:29-30)
No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:29–30).
In my first book, the 3 loves we need, I opened up my introduction with this line; "love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to us". This was true then (2009) and it is true now (2016) and it will always be true. Literally, there is no such thing as unconditional love, not even, in some sense, that of God. At the same time, we may not strongly confess love to be of mutual benefit (maybe yes in one sense but also No in another) but what is clear is that the two parties involved, each has a responsibility, a duty to play, and a reward to gain. That is what makes love genuine, true, holy and everlasting.
The above verse clearly explains it all. The church (Christians) makes up Christ's body and He loves His body. The above excerpt is from a whole text that was about marriage (husbands and wives) and it instructs a husband to love his wife just as Christ loved the Church. In other words, man and wife are one and loving each other is not actually a sacrifice for the other but for self. Openly, the text is saying that a woman is man's body just as the church is Christ's and to love a woman is not to do her a favor, but it is to nourish and cherish your own body. The same applies to a man.
When we love, we should not do it out of pity for the other person, but out of self service to ourselves, our souls. True and genuine love is not defined by selflessness or absence of selfishness, but presence of self interest. In other words, we are not practicing love by just become unselfish, we are simply starving ourselves or sacrificing our pleasure in vain.
According to John Piper (the hedonist), self interest finds joy in happiness of others, but selfishness seeks happiness at the expense of other people's joy. We can say we are in love if the happiness of the person we love is our happiness too. In this sense, we can do all it takes to make the person we love happy since her or his happiness is our joy. So this is not about the other person, at least not about him or her only, but about us. We are making her happy and serving our joy in the process. In other words, we are taking care of our joy in the first place and not her happiness.
C. S Lewis in the sermon, the weight of glory, says something of our message today, “The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point”. In other words, when we embark on being unselfish, we do not care about the happiness of others as long as we are suffering the pain. We think we are paying the cost by ‘not having’ (unselfish) yet this can only be complete if our ‘not having’ results in some kind of joy and happiness to others and ourselves.
Back to Christ's love for his church, He did not die to serve us, at least not us only, but to serve His glory. In other words, He sought His glory and the way was the cross and salvation of mankind (this does not limit God to only finding glory in dying for us for, as we always say, He would still be God even without doing a single miracle).
The bible is clear, Jesus knew the glory that was to come (Philippians 2:9-10), Moses did not give up because he trusted more in the reward to come; Paul preached through tears and pain because he trusted in God's promises (2 Timothy 1:12), and we all love God not because we want to be moral or show loyalty to the law, but because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). That is what true love is, it is serving ourselves through serving others. It is finding happiness and joy in the joy and happiness of others.
In other words, to say, I love you, is to say, I am happy since you are happy. To be sure, it is to say ‘you make me happy and I love you’ or ‘loving you make me happy’. And this is clearly about us and not the people we love.
If asked why we love someone, our answers should be about what that someone means to us and not what we mean to her or him. If asked why we are interested in the happiness of our fellows, our answers should be because we are the ones happy in the process. And when asked why we serve God, our answers should not bear our advantages to Him but our own benefits. That is the true love.
If our devotion to God, our love for our parents, friends or even our marriage partners brings nothing like joy, happiness, satisfaction and a feeling of being better, then we are not only committing suicide but also sinning.
Love is not a prison of endless sacrifices without rewards; it is a field of self service. In other words, I need to love my woman because of what she actually means to me, and not what I mean to her.
So does it mean God's love is conditional? To answer this question, let us visit James 4:8. Come near to God and He will get closer to you too, says the verse. Yes, literally, our God's love is conditional, but theologically or spiritually, it is not. In other words, God's love is unconditional in the sense that He is love, the beginner, the first one to love us even when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). God designed the plan to save us even before we were born.
But God's love is conditional in the sense that to enjoy it to the fullest, we MUST leave sin, bad habits and hardness and get closer to God through His son Jesus Christ. To bluntly say that God's love is unconditional, it is to say that we have to do nothing completely and that is not true for we really have to believe in that mercy or that love.
What happens when the above true love gets distorted?
This is simple, both parties get hurt. But it is not as simple as it seems, let us explain it. In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet or God is quoted, "Oh, how I hurt! How I hurt! I am bent over in pain" (Jeremiah 4:19) and then hear people's cry, "Oh! I am about to faint before my murderers!" (Jeremiah 4:31C). The book of Luke tells us how Christ cried at the sight of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). In other words, both the man and woman get hurt, both the body and Christ get hurt, and both God and His people get hurt. This is another good confirmation of what we discussed above. Because both parties have benefits in the relationship, both parties still get hurt.
When we break our promises to God and act prostitutes, we not only hurt God, but ourselves too. Yes, when we give up on loving our women or husbands, we not only hurt them but ourselves too. I wish we all knew this.
Actually, sometimes we break our promises and get hurt even more than those we love. And as they pass through the pain, feel the pricks of destroyed romance, we are actually feeling the worst pain. This is possible because while we hurt them, we actually were hurting our bodies and souls for we are one body. Explicitly put, we are actually hurting ourselves.
The above thought is important for marriage: When your wife hurts you, it is not about you any more, it is actually her in pain (Of course, this applies if you indeed are one body). And as Jesus advises us, nobody should hate his flesh, but only should nourish and cherish it as Christ does His church.
We are not saying that there is no sacrifice in loving, we are saying there is sacrificing but for one's self. We are not saying there is no pain in serving God, we are saying there is pain but for one's self interests. We are not denying that there is self denial in remaining loyal to God or the people we love; we are only acknowledging that it is self denial for self gains.
That is what true and genuine love is. And when it breaks, we both get hurt. And thus God advises us, "If you will return, Israel, then return to me" (Jeremiah 4:1), then I will stop being angry at you forever (Jeremiah 3:12). And we will both win as my Glory gets praised too (Jeremiah 4:2). Clearly, our relationship with God is about two things: Our delight, joy, and satisfaction in Him and His glory in serving us (Psalm 37:4). Jeremy Taylor makes it plain; “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy” (Put ‘love’ where there is ‘God’).
But we must explain something;
Our God is mighty and, as we earlier discussed, He cannot be made to act out of His will. In other words, while for us we can be nothing without Him, He can still be God and completely happy without us.
In other words, while we both get hurt when our love relationship gets distorted, He still has thousands of ways He can serve His glory other than through serving us or us serving Him. Does this make his weeping for Jerusalem fake? No of course, it does not.
Our God's whole desire and plan is to see us get saved (Ezekiel 18:23). His cry is genuine and deep for we are one with Him and losing even one soul is losing a part of His body (though this does not make him incomplete, it still hurts). So in the end, to break up our relationship with Him, it is to break our own selves for He is the beginning and end and we are completely lost without Him (This does not apply to human-human love relationships and break-ups; each one gets hurt or makes some kind of loss).
God says it well; "but I am not the one the people of Judah are really hurting, they are only hurting themselves and bringing shame upon themselves" (Jeremiah 7:19).
To be sure, since God can serve His glory not necessarily through our delight (serving us), then we should be grateful that He, out of His will, chose to manifest His glory through the impeccable service to us. This is what makes His love unconditional.
In one dimension, we can explain our relationship with God very well using our relationships. Actually, our relationship with God (Christ and the church) is easily understood as bride and bridegroom's relationship and romance. This is another topic but I remember we did well on it when we tried to answer our quest in relation to sex (romance) in heaven.
Love is not pleasing or making others happy at the expense of your own joy, it is instead serving your own joy through the happiness of others. To love a woman or a man so much should hinge on what she or he means to you in all aspects not out of your pity for him or her. Our God loves us and serves us not only for our benefits, but for His glory and name. We are His body and all He has to do is nourish and cherish it.
To bluntly say that God's love is unconditional could mean that we have it without doing anything and yet we must believe in that grace to experience it in its fullest. But to avoid confusion, it is better to keep it up unconditional (after all, He loved us before we even knew Him and His rewards are far beyond what we give or do), but I just hope we bear in mind that we have a duty to play in it.
When that love gets distorted, we both get hurt and feel pain and we can only restore ourselves by restoring the happiness of the other. In other words, we are not doing favor to God or marriage partner when we love, we are doing ourselves favor. Even though it is and it was possible for God to serve His glory in thousands of other ways, He chose us even before we knew Him and decided to reveal His glory through His service and death for us, the same way we should sacrifice and die for the people we love. This does not end in the other person's glory and benefits, but in our own happiness and joy.
So we need to fight for love, staying true to our loved ones, being patient and sensitive to their (those we love) needs and happiness for we are actually not doing it for them but for ourselves and our souls. Remember, this is true if indeed we are one love, one body (true woman-man romance).
God bless you
If you have not yet received Christ Jesus as your personal Savior to help you in this crazy life and build you up for even the next eternal life, today is your day dear brother and sister. Repeat this prayer after me, "Lord Jesus, I am so much happy to meet you today. I have suffered and struggled to live for myself alone, but I am tired and I have sinned a lot along this way. I kindly ask you to take me in today and make me your holy child. Yes, I want to be there for your service Lord from today on-wards. Save me and make me find true living in you alone. Thanks Jesus. Amen". If you have finished praying, we believe you are now saved and Jesus will never abandon you. Find a good church near you and be part of their congregation.
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