The word “love” is overused in today’s society. We express love for anything from the perfect shoes to pepperoni pizza. When the object of our affection wears out, then we move on to something new. This kind of love comes and goes. It moves from object to object, concept to new idea.
Loving another person is not supposed to be so fluid. When we love another person, we want that love to last forever. We want to believe that the person we have loved an married will still be the person we love at the end of our life. So why is it that some many marriages end in divorce court? To quote Andy Stanley, “Falling in love is easy, staying in love requires a plan.”
God has a plan for marriage.
His advice is scattered throughout the Bible. In the study, Staying In Love, Andy Stanley leads us on a journey of discovery. Learning the principles will not produce a life-long marriage but living those principles will.
The study begins with the declaration that love is a verb. We encourage you to participate in this first lesson of Staying In Love. To explore the rest of the study, go to Study Gateway and dive in! ~ Fred Bittner, FaithGateway Bible Study
Love is a Verb
There’s something in us that craves a relationship with that one special someone who knows us like no one else. We want that one person we can share life with, do life with… and finish life with.
I believe that this longing we all seem to have is just the thumbprint of God on our souls. It’s a desire God placed in us, as part of our being created in his image. It makes us want to fall in love and stay in love with one person forever.
The falling in love part is easy enough — most of us have done it a number of times. But the staying in love… now that’s another matter. Glancing around at the marriages we know, and taking in what our culture tells us, we don’t find much, if any, evidence for the kind of long-lasting relationships we crave.
So the question haunts us: Is staying in love even possible?
Think about the marriages of people you know best. What elements contributed to failed marriages? What elements contributed to lasting, long-term marriages?
It’s a fascinating question, profoundly important, and one that we all ask at some point: Is it possible for a husband and wife to stay in love — to stay happy together forever?
In spite of the troubled marriages we see all around us, most of us would answer, “Yes, it’s possible.” We even hold out hope that it’s possible for us, a hope that reflects something of the image of God in us. We want a marriage where we as a couple finish together, and finish strong.
Yes, we affirm, it must be possible! But we aren’t so sure that it is probable. We have our doubts about that.
Falling in love has never been easier, thanks in part to today’s electronic social networking; but staying in love has never been more difficult. Few of us have been able to closely observe a fully healthy, romantic marriage relationship, and today’s relational “rules” are self-centered and manipulative.
Meanwhile, the standards of what we expect from a relationship are as high as ever — we want massive doses of respect, encouragement, comfort, security, support, acceptance, approval, appreciation, attention, and affection. We come into a marriage feeling our own deficits in many of these areas, and expecting our spouse to make up for them.
Moreover, our culture has a very low threshold of relational pain. We’re constantly told that if we find ourselves unhappy in a relationship, it’s because we chose the wrong person, so now we need to abort that relationship and choose someone else.
Into that kind of relational chaos, Jesus has spoken. Two thousand years ago, He gave us the foundation for romantic love relationships that endure. This foundation is crystallized for us in the words of Jesus in John 13:34 —
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
It’s simple, yet counterintuitive. Jesus takes this word love — which we normally perceive as a noun, something we fall into, or a feeling we experience — and He highlights it as a verb. It’s something you do, an active choice you make. And once you do, then the feelings will follow.
Making love a verb is the foundation for staying in love.
And Jesus asks us to take our cue in this from Him — from His own love as He demonstrated it for us.
Years later, the apostle Paul amplified this idea of active love in terms of mutual submission in a marriage — where each partner gives priority to the other person. Our model in this is Christ, who gave His life while submitting to us and making our needs His priority.
Watch the Video
- If a young teenager asked you that question — “How possible is it for two people to stay happy together forever?” — how would you answer, and what reasons would you give for your answer? And how different is that from the way you might have answered, say, five years ago?
- How realistic is it to hold out hope for that one romantic relationship that will stay full of passion and intimacy? How right is it?
- Think of the relational habits promoted by our culture. Which ones have you noticed work against enduring love relationships?
- When you recall that Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us, what standards and guidelines for relationships does that bring to mind?
- What typically keeps couples from practicing mutual submission in marriage, from always giving priority to the other person?
- In Ephesians 5:21, we’re told, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” What do you think it means in a marriage to practice mutual submission out of reverence for Christ?
- We all crave that one romantic relationship that will endure — and though we believe it’s possible for us, we often have doubts about actually attaining it.
- In giving us the right foundation for an enduring relationship, Jesus teaches us to make love a verb, based on his own example.
- The biblical concept of lasting love, as modeled by Jesus, is one of mutual submission where each of us gives priority to the other in our daily decisions and actions.
“In our relationship, you are the priority” — these words might come fairly easy. What about the actions behind them?
In order to make love a verb, what are two or three action steps you can take immediately to demonstrate your decision to give first priority to your spouse?
Changing Your Mind
This session’s key Scripture passage states the core dynamic behind “love as a verb,” as expressed by Jesus:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34
Let these words motivate you to be proactive in loving your spouse, as you take your cues in this from Jesus Himself.
Study Through The Week
To help you get ready for Session 2, use these suggested devotions during the week leading up to your small group meeting.
As your passage to focus on this week, read through Philippians 2:3-8, which gives relationship guidelines rooted in the life example of Jesus Christ. Notice especially verse 3. What makes these instructions difficult for most of us to carry out?
Look closer at Philippians 2:4. Why do you think it’s so important for married couples to make the effort to actively take notice of each other’s personal interests — and even get involved in them?
In Philippians 2:5-7, we’re pointed to the example of Christ as the right standard for our own relationships with each other. From what you see in these verses, how would you describe the relational standards that Jesus demonstrated for us?
Philippians 2:8 tells us to what extent Jesus humbled Himself for the sake of fulfilling God’s plan for having a relationship with us. How far did Jesus take it? And in our relationships with each other, how far should we go in humbling ourselves for the sake of one another?
Read over again this week’s passage, Philippians 2:3-8. How would you summarize the uniqueness and radical difference in the relational guidelines that are taught here, as compared to the relational guidelines we’re more likely to learn from the culture around us?
* * *
Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about loving one another and staying in love!