Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Keeping Love Alive


Keeping Love Alive


One marriage counselor was asked the following question, “What happens to the love after you get married?”  This is a huge question in our culture.  Almost every popular magazine has at least one article each issue on keeping love alive in a marriage. Books abound on the subject.  Television and radio talk shows deal with it.  So, with all the books, magazines, and practical help available, why it is that so few couples seem to have found the secret to keeping love alive after the wedding?  Presently 40 percent of first marriages in this country end in divorce.  Sixty percent of second marriages and 75 percent of third marriages end the same way.


The Power of Love


“The need to feel loved by one’s spouse is at the heart of martial desires.  A man said to me recently, ‘What good is the house, the cars, the place at the beach, or any of the rest of it if your wife doesn’t love you?’  Do you understand what he was really saying?  ‘More than anything, I want to be loved by my wife.’  Material things are no replacement for human, emotional love. Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another.  Isolation is devastating to the human psyche.  That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments.  At the heart of mankind’s existence is the desire to be intimate and to be loved by another.  Marriage is designed to meet the need for intimacy and love.  That is why the ancient biblical writings spoke of the husband and wife becoming ‘one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).  That did not mean that individuals would lose their identity; it meant that they would enter into each other’s lives in a deep and intimate way” (The Five Love Languages, Chapman, pp. 22-23).


History, ancient and recent, is filled with examples of people who sacrificed themselves, others, children, and even long marriages for an opportunity at love.  One lesson that every Christian should learn at this point is that their mate has a tremendous need for genuine love and they do too.  If love isn’t in your marriage, or is in very short supply, then you are opening up a door for yourself and your mate to many temptations to enter into your lives.  Most affairs happen, not because people are looking for physical intimacy, but because they are desperate for emotional intimacy. 


Falling in love


“The euphoria of the ‘in love’ stage gives us the illusion that we have an intimate relationship.  We believe that we belong to each other.  We believe we can conquer all problems .  Such obsession gives us the false sense that our egocentric attitudes have been eradicated and we have become sort of a Mother Teresa, willing to give anything for the benefit of our lover. The reason we can do that so freely is that we sincerely believe that our lover feels the same way toward us” (p. 32).    We need to make the following observations about “falling in love”:


Falling in love isn’t true love as yet; rather, it is more infatuation.  For falling in love is effortless, while true love, requires effort (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).  Second, it is very easy to love someone before you have seen their flaws or before such feelings have been tested by reality. 


True love demands growth and maturity (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), it requires unselfishness, patience, forgiveness, and endurance. “The in-love experience does not focus on our own growth, or on the growth and development of the other person, rather, it gives us the sense that we have arrived and that we do not need further growth.   We are at the apex of life’s happiness, and our only desire is to stay there” (p. 34).  The enemy of infatuation is change for how many young couples secretly pray, “Oh that nothing would change and that everything at this very moment would remain the same forever”?


Another danger of the “in-love” experience is that is gives you a feeling of a false maturity, false spirituality, and a false intimacy. It is easy to be emotionally intimate with someone when they always agree with you.  I believe that many young couples “in love” arrogantly assumed that no one has every discovered a love as deep as the love they have at this moment. 


Finally, don’t resent the move from infatuation to true love.  If the “in love” obsession lasted forever, then we would be in serious trouble.  People who are involved in such high-octane feelings lose interest in other pursuits.  The college student who falls head over heals in love often sees his grades tumbling.  It is difficult to study or do anything else.  When you’re in love, everything else seems irrelevant. 


Is True Love Boring?



Unfortunately, when people hear that “True love is a choice”, somehow they think that genuine love is sterile and emotionless. For some people the statement, “I married you and I choose to look out for your interests” doesn’t sound very romantic.  On the surface or at first, infatuation seems more like love than the genuine article.  But the trouble with infatuation is:  1.  It gives up when reality sets in.  That is, infatuation quickly turns sour when the other person manifests some flaws or imperfections.  2.  It is “mall love”, that is, very shallow, often materialistic, self-centered (“What is happening to me?”), pleasure-centered (The myth that when you are really in love you are happy all the time).  3.  Is upset by the slightest mistake or change of plans.   4.  Is offended when the other person doesn’t put them first in all things.


The wonderful news is that genuine love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) provides the soil for real and lasting romance, even when the other person isn’t perfect, romance after 20 years of marriage, romance after seeing the other person at their best and worst. 


The language that keeps love alive


Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”.  Long before Mark Twain was born, God had said the same thing, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21); “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad” (12:25); “From the fruit of a man’s mouth he enjoys good” (13:2). Wise and apt words bring blessings upon the speaker.  Contrast, the unfaithful desire to harm others, by violent words and deeds.  Compare with the statement, “You will end up eating those words”.  Words pass, but their fruit does remain.  The type of speech that you give to others will be given back to you.  “The lips of the righteous feed many” (10:21); “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (16:24); “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (31:26). 


I wonder if even Christians at times remain unmoved by the above passages?  Have we been so influenced by our culture that we think that unkind words between husbands and wives are normal and a natural part of marriage?  Have we watched too many soap operas or sit-coms, or worse, have we seen couples verbally tearing each other down?  Our society tends to laugh at couples that seek to hurt and humiliate each other, but it’s not funny if you are in that marriage, or are being raised in a home where mom and dad do not bridle their tongue.  James makes the point that if you can’t control what you say, then you don’t have the right to call yourself a Christian (James 1:26-27; 3:9, 14-18). 


Healthy Communication


Encouraging Words:  The word “encourage” means “to inspire courage”.  All of us have areas in our lives in which we feel insecure.  We lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the good things that we would like to do.  At times we think that pressuring someone to do something is “encouragement”.  For example, some husbands pressure their wives to lose weight.  The husband says, “I am encouraging her”, but to the wife it sounds like condemnation.  A lesson that we need to learn in marriage is that encouragement is far more effective after a person states that they want to do something that would be good for them.  If your spouse says, “I think I would like to enroll in a weight loss program”, then you have the opportunity to say something positive like, “I know you can do it”, “Whenever you have put your mind to something, you have succeeded”.  “Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop.  What holds us back is often courage.  A loving spouse can supply that all-important catalyst” (p. 45).  (1 Thessalonians 5:14,11)   A word of warning:  If you have a habit of making promises but never change, then don’t be shocked if your mate starts preaching to you.  If you want encouragement, then you must do your part.


Kind Words:  “Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).  What you say is just as important as how you say it.  Sometimes our words are saying one thing, but our tone of voice is saying another.  Our spouse will usually interpret our message based on our tone of voice, and not the words that we use.  Sadly, the one reason why even some professed Christians talk to each other in sarcastic and cutting tones is that they are angry concerning something in the past.  “I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday.  They insist on bringing into today the failures of yesterday and in so doing pollute a potentially wonderful day:  “I can’t believe you did it.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.  You can’t possibly know how much you hurt me.  I don’t know how you can sit there so smugly after you treated me that way.  You ought to be crawling on your knees begging me for forgiveness.  I don’t know if I can ever forgive you”.  Those are not the words of love but of bitterness and resentment and revenge” (p. 47).  Remember, “Love does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5).  A word of warning:  If you did something that hurt your mate and you refuse to repent, then you don’t have anything to complain about if they are unable to offer forgiveness.  The fault at this point is not with them, but with you.  Refusing to admit our sins will kill any chance of intimacy in our marriages, for no one can have tender feelings for someone who is defiant.


Humble Words:  Love makes requests, not demands.  If we come across to our mate with a list of demands, then we have just erased the possibility of intimacy in our marriages.  When you make a request of your spouse, you are affirming his or her worth and abilities.  You are in essence indicating that she has something or can do something that is meaningful and worthwhile to you.  Wives are to treat their husband with respect and men are to dwell with their wives in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:3-7).  Both of these truths infer that wives and husbands need to be considerate and humble in the things that they request of each other. 


Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017