True Love

            But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Mat 22:34-40)
            What is love? Is it true that all we need is love? If I gave you a sheet of paper and wrote, “Love is…” what would you put on the paper?
            Here we come face to face with one of the most known passages in the all the Bible. There are many of you here who do not go to church, but you will still know this passage. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourselves.
            But we do not usually think about this passage in the context of marriage. We think about worship and loving our friends or our co-workers or our fellow church members. We may even think about loving our neighbors in faraway places in Africa. However, our closest neighbors are family members. And our closest family member is our spouse. So loving our neighbor as ourselves begins with loving those closest to us.
            What are some points to be taken from this passage about true love that is Biblical love?
            First, love begins with the worship of the living God. Love does not begin by looking into our hearts. Love does not begin by looking into one another’s eyes. Love begins when we fall on our knees before the one who made the world in seven days.  God is love. If we do not worship him we cannot love one another.
            Second, if we love God we will love our neighbor. Jesus says here the second is like unto it. It is connected to it.  The first point addresses one fault. We cannot love our neighbor without first loving God. But we cannot claim to love God if we do not love our neighbor. Hear the words of John.
            If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(1Jn 4:20-21)
            Evan and Kelsi you cannot love one another without first loving God. But you cannot claim to love God and not love one another. A husband who sits in the pew week after week and hears God’s Word and sings God’s praises, yet does  not love his wife is a liar. A wife who sits in worship week after week and refuses to submit to her husband is lying about her worship of God.
            Third, love is not built on emotion.  Love is emotional. There are emotions involved. But emotions cannot drive our love. Nowhere is Christian love as opposed to the world as it is right here.  The world believes that love is fundamentally a feeling. When that feeling is gone, love is gone. But the Scripture do not view love this way. When Jesus says to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength he does not mean love God when we feel like. He does not mean love God when life is good and everything is okay. He does not mean love God when you are in good health.  He means love God all the time not matter the circumstances. This is true of loving our neighbor as well.  We love our spouses in sickness and in health. We love them when we are rich and when we are poor. We love them no matter the circumstance. Love cannot be dictated or built upon emotion.
            Fourth, love is defined by the Bible.  On these two commands hang all the Law and prophets. Love is not an empty container that we get to fill with whatever we want.  God defines reality. God defines love. Biblical love is fenced in by God’s commands.
            Evan, if you love Kelsi you will sacrifice for her. You will wash her in the word. You will nourish and cherish her. You will set an example of servanthood. You will live with her in an understanding way. If you are not doing these things, you do not love her.
            Kelsi, if you love Evan you will cheerfully submit to his leadership. You will listen to him, obey him, and respect him. If you are not doing these things you do not love him. Hear the words of Peter:
            But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
(1Pe 3:4-6)
            The Bible continues to define love. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. It does not boast. It is not self-seeking. Love is sexually faithful.  So love is not whatever you feel or think. Love is not what the movies teach or the songs we hear. Love is not what our parents taught us. Love is what the Scriptures teach. Nothing more. Nothing less.
            But true love is a hard thing, is it not?  Anyone who has been married for more than a week knows that a marriage is one of the most difficult things on earth to hold together. The problem is not our spouse or our culture or our background. The problem is our hearts. We are selfish. We sin. This means we do not love.  When someone sins against us we do not want to forgive. When we sin we do not want to repent. We do not want to love those around us. So what is going to make a marriage thrive?  
            There is no surprise here. The answer is Jesus. You are both sinners. And your sins are deeper and uglier than you can imagine.  So the gospel must stay central to your marriage. If you want to love God and love your neighbor and not be driven by emotion and obey the Scriptures then Jesus must be the center. You must learn to flee to him when you sin and to forgive as he forgave when you are sinned against. You must learn to rely upon him for grace to overcome your sins.
            I am not saying that Jesus will make your marriage easier. In fact, He often makes are marriages harder. It is hard work tilling and planting a garden. It is not hard to watch the weeds grow will sipping tea on the porch.  But in the end the man who has tilled the garden has fruit while the man who sips tea only has weeds.
            There is no hope for our marriages, for your marriage outside of Jesus.  Stay close to Christ and he will help you love one another. Stay close to Christ and he will help you mortify your sins. Stay close to Christ and he will show you where your love comes up short.