Falling in Love? (Part 1)

A comparison and evaluation of the three kinds of love as they relate to courtship and marriage

Has God intended that a Christian should fall in love?…

…It seems there are two false notions that dominate the world’s thought about love. First of all there is the fatalistic notion as expressed in the phrase “fall in love.” The very expression seems to suggest that love is a sort of trap into which one falls and, having fallen in, one is a hopeless victim unable to extricate oneself.

Second, love is thought of as an irresistible power that may overcome a person at any time. And, willy-nilly, you have to love a certain one regardless of circumstances and conditions. If things are such that you cannot get the one you have fallen in love with, then your fate is tragic. As the romance lyrics picture, you must pine away in regrets and unsatisfied longings. It is this warped notion of falling in love that has ruined homes and married couples. It accounts for the scandalous record of divorces in our nation.

Recently we read of a prominent playwright who, as he married his second wife, agreed with her that if love should ever depart, and either one of them should fall in love with anyone else, one would not seek to hold the other. He is now married to a third wife…

Thank God, love is not some cruel, unseen despot who plays with its victims. God does not intend that a Christian should marry simply because he has fallen in love. In his love he should be just as definitely guided by the Holy Spirit as in any other experience in his life. So we should choose to love the one to whom the Holy Spirit guides. With the renewed mind under the direction of the Holy Spirit, one can deliberately live in the will and live above all the animal magnetism of the flesh.

Now we are not implying that Christian people do not fall in love. Oh no! Perhaps the word “fall” explains exactly what they do. [In Greek] there are three levels of love: eros is passion and animal magnetism, phileo is a very high soulish fondness or natural afection often confused with divine love, agape is His divine love which is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). It is not that these two lower levels should not exist; no. God has planned them and built them into our being (Song of Solomon; 1 Cor. 7:3-5].. But He never intended that either eros or phileo should be dominating or controlling. It is when the Holy Spirit is controlling to shed abroad agape love that the phileo love and the eros love are in their proper function.

Thus we can understand these infatuations which people call “love.” They begin with the imaginations of the fleshly mind, combine with the affections of the nature and arise to create what seems like an irresistible power. The world calls it love! But it is not God’s highest design. Because of these infatuations many young (and alas, older) are led astray. Those who have not known their abiding position in His death and resurrection (Gal. 2:20) cannot reckon upon the sentence of death which God places upon our fleshly affections (Gal. 5:24) which have become warped in the Fall. They are apt to find themselves strongly attracted as a strange magnetic infatuation grips the soulish mind. This is what they describe as falling in love; it is falling from that higher plane which God has intended.

Notice how fleeting and passing these infatuations may be. Here is a young man who can hardly eat or sleep because he is thinking only of a certain girl. He chooses to be occupied with only her. Then comes a day when she does something to hurt his ego. Perhaps she disappoints him and goes off with someone else. Lo and behold, the spell is broken and the infatuation is over. Suddenly he can see all kinds of things in her that he doesn’t like–things he never saw before. [For a vivid, tragic example of this pattern, see the case of Amnon and Tamar in 2 Samuel ch. 13.]

Of course we have learned that when a young person is in the midst of such an “infatuation spell,” it is almost impossible to reason or show him anything. If we are wise, we shall give instruction before the hour of need so as to forewarn. He who has learned to live in his will will not be the ready victim of these soulish whims.

There are many who have experienced love only in the second plane [phileo]. They have discovered a soul-mating because they have a union of ideals and values. But what happens when their ideals or values change? Others whose goals and plans were miles apart have experienced only passion and physical union [eros]. They assumed that sex appeal was all there is in love; and when the sex appeal seems to have shifted or waned, they imagined that love had left. It is lives who have built upon these shallow notions who can expect sin and sorrow and wrecked homes [See Matt. 7:24-29].

How necessary that our conception of love be rectified. Many who have not known much of the mental or spiritual aspects wonder why the physical aspect of love cannot hold them. They cannot understand how the Bible can command a husband and wife to continue to love each other as long as they live. If love were merely a physical or emotional thing that could not be possible. But God intends that love be something which the spirit and will controls. We are to thoughtfully and by a deliberate action of the will choose to love. This love is not something one merely falls into.

A Christian who understands this conception of love could never even think of ceasing to love the one to whom he or she is married. It was an undeniable fact that the wife with whom I was counseling had suffered through more than twenty years of married life. Her drunken, inconsiderate husband had seemed to increase in his irresponsibility. Now she wanted a legal separation. She insisted that her love for him had gone long ago and that her home situation was unbearable.

As I listened and as we prayed it seemed the Lord gave insight into her real problem. During most of these twenty years she had developed a secret bitterness toward her husband; but she had also harbored a bitterness toward God because He had (seemingly) allowed her life to be ruined by such a wretched man. Why didn’t God answer her prayers? Why didn’t He fix up this husband and relieve her frustration? Suddenly she saw two things: first, that she really only wanted to use God to remedy this home problem. She was not concerned for what God might realize through her life–she only wanted to use Him for her own benefit. Second, she saw how she had been running–running away from her ordained place as a wife. She didn’t want God’s will; she only wanted release. Whereas God wanted her to accept this difficult place “as His will” and trust Him to work an inward grace in her heart, she wanted escape–not fulfillment. She wanted release, but God wanted to rectify her life unto Himself and then through her get at her husband.

When I read God’s Word for this situation it was like a shaft of light breaking through. She admitted: “I’m through running. This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning me.”

Then I continued: “Are you sure what God’s will is for you and John?”

She was quick to reply, “I’m sure that in God’s purpose John is truly my husband and I vowed to take him ‘for better or for worse!’ I will accept God’s will and go back to John–with a new mind and spirit.”

I showed how this meant allowing the mind of the Spirit to send the right knowledge into the stream; whereas before she had been compromising with vain reasonings of the flesh.

“But that is not all,” I continued. “God also wants you to love your husband, not just put up with him. This is the real difficulty. You are sure you cannot turn love on just as you would a faucet. All the pent-up bitterness, feelings of resentment and hatred rise up to justify you in your self-pity and would once again seek to over-ride what you know is God’s will.”

“I know what God’s will is,” she continued. “But I don’t see how I can work up love or confidence where there is none. I can will–but how can I perform?”

“That is where God’s part comes in,” I returned. “If you will simply will, as you would open a door, then you can trust God to move through to do the performing. You do not perform it. You simply set your will on His side–in harmony with all that He desires for Himself in your lives. By this deliberate choice you can expect God to send the flow of His own love and His own knowledge–as rivers into your will.

“Furthermore, you must reckon that when you died in Christ upon the Cross, that God dealt a death blow to all of the old mind of the flesh and the feelings of pity in the self-life [See Rom. 6:6,11]. Claim that the Cross has been placed over these two rivers so that they will not be the source from whence flows carnal reasonings and feelings.” So we drew a cross over the two rivers, thus indicating they were to be rendered inoperative.

We considered how this was but a crisis, and in the hours and weeks ahead she must continually reckon upon the cross-work as stopping the old sources of flow and count on God’s feeding both the mind and the emotions from the proper source. I could assure her, “if you do this. God will impart His own love in your heart and will help you to see, through a renewed mind, some of the good qualities in John you have so long completely missed.”

With an enlightened smile she left, announcing: “I can see now why you place so much emphasis on the continuous act of the will. I shall do it.”

Because it had happened in so many others I could confidently insist, “God has far more design for our will than most of us have realized. If you will to accept God’s remedy (the old life has been rendered inoperative at the Cross), then God will start the right flow of His own love and compassion through your emotions.”

She returned to the meetings every day for the next two weeks. She seemed like a new person with a new inner glow and of course a new testimony. “I thought it was my husband, but I was the key to our home difficulty. God is allowing a new flow of His own love through me.” I am glad to report after seven years that the home is completely changed. Her husband is not only a believer, but has become a truly spirit-filled leader in their church. She has become a loving, submissive wife who knows her place and gladly accepts it.

Part 1 of 2

This theme will challenge every reader to evaluate whether his/her love concepts are shaped by Hollywood or Holy Word.

Note: Without diminishing the testimony given above, pastoral counselors concede that sometimes a time of marital separation is permissible and needed. In such cases the separation (whether for two days, weeks, months or years) is intended to be remedial and the same biblical counsel should be applied, encouraging repentance, identification with Christ, forgiveness and agape love. See, for example, https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/troubled-marriage/saving-a-marriage-through-separation/ – JBW

Bracketed Bible references added.

DeVern Fromke, Unto Full Stature. (Sure Foundation, 2001). 145-149. Copyright Sure Foundation. Used with permission

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