(The Setting A Good Foundation Series)

Some Christians subscribe to the view that once you find someone who is a professing follower of and believer in Jesus Christ, that it doesn’t really matter if you are in love with this person and vice versa or where there is love, it doesn’t matter if this is of a platonic, friendly, companionship-oriented nature. They say, that once the both of you can get along, have some level of friendship, common goals, values and things in common, then God approves and marriage can take place.

Some argue, that even if the couple is not deeply in love with each other or they share no real affection for each other, that that couple has the entire marriage to learn how to love each other. They say that some people fall in love inside the marriage, after they have walked down the aisle and committed themselves to each other.

I’ve been thinking about this school of thought and I vehemently disagree. I am of the view that God expects a husband and wife to have deep, strong, intimate, passionate, FERVENT love for one another. Platonic or passive love is not enough.

When I look at scripture, I see verses that I believe support my view. In John 13:34 for example, Jesus told his disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; AS I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

This is applicable to all Christians, including those today. Given therefore that a Christian marriage consists of two believers in Jesus Christ who have surrendered their hearts to him as Lord, it means that Jesus expects a husband to love his wife and a wife to love her husband, AS HE loved his disciples and loves the Church. This is the standard and the extent of this love is very high.

Now I know that there are different types of love and that the love for a spouse (which is romantic love) is different from the love a Christian will have for a relative or a Church brother or sister. However, this portion of scripture establishes at the very least, that God expects those who are his children (including Christian husbands and wives) to love one another and to model their love after that demonstrated by Jesus Christ. Given that this is one of the basic requirements of Christianity and that a Christian marriage consists of two Christians, this is a basic requirement of the extent of the love that should also exist in a Christian marriage.

Just to love one another is not enough. It commands that Christians love each other AS JESUS LOVED his disciples and the Church.

As indicated before, this is a high standard. For, Jesus’ love for those who are his is not passive. He loves those that are his greatly.

Similarly therefore, I believe that in the romantic sphere, God expects a husband and wife to have strong, passionate, deep, zealous love for each other. This is supported by additional scripture, which command Christians (and therefore include a Christian husband and wife) to not just love each other but to do so FERVENTLY.

1 Peter 4:8 states for example: “And above all things have FERVENT charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”

This tells me that there are LEVELS of love. You can love someone a little and you can love someone a lot. You can love someone passively in a platonic way as maybe just a good friend that you respect and admire and you can love someone FERVENTLY.

It is clear that the Bible calls upon Christians to love each other with very potent, strong, FERVENT love and this principle therefore extends and is also applicable to a Christian husband and wife.

There is absolutely no room for passivity. Remember, in John 13:34, Jesus commanded his disciples not just to love one another but to do so in a way that emulated the love he had for them. He told them to love one another, AS HE had loved them.

An assessment of the extent of Jesus’ love for his disciples and for all Christians today, consistently reveals that his love was FERVENT and selfless. Only FERVENT love could make the decision to give up glory in heaven, come down to base earth, take on the form of a base man and allow yourself to stand in the place of vile sinners sacrificially, dying a painful and shameful death on their behalf, before they even loved you back, so that mankind could be reconciled with God and avoid his wrath in hell.

Only FERVENT love could motivate God the Father to make the decision to send his only begotten Son (Jesus), to earth, to die for the sins of mankind. John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Indeed, what wondrous love is this!

Selfless love is the very epitome of love. For, it completely denies itself in the pursuit of the best interest of the other. Jesus willingly humbled himself, left his place of glory on high, came to earth, took on lowly human form and gave up his life as an offering for the sins of the world, so that you and I could, upon believing that he rose again and confessing that he is Lord, be forgiven and reconciled to God.

Philippians 2:3-8 tells us:

  • “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus suffered an excruciating and humiliating death on the cross but to him, it was worth it because of what it meant for us thereafter. This is how Jesus now calls Christians everywhere to love each other and so within a Christian marriage, FERVENT love also applies.

In Hebrews 12:2, it exhorts: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” John 15:13 also states of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made and the extent of the love that he had for us which motivated him to do it:Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

While it is certain that our love will never compare to the heights and depths of the love that Jesus has for us, he still desires that it be emulated and it is certainly worthy of emulation. In fact, he calls upon men, to love their wives to the point where they are willing to sacrifice their own lives for them, even as he did for humanity.

Ephesians 5:25-29 states:

  • “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”

Jesus therefore calls upon husbands to nourish, cherish, take good care of their wives and to love them as much as they love themselves. He also calls upon them to have FERVENT love for them, to the point where they are willing to lose their lives for them, as he did for the whole world.

If you really think of it, it is only passionate, FERVENT, deep, intimate, strong and fiery love that can inspire someone to give up his life for another. A husband must love his wife a whole lot and with absolute sincerity, to willingly fight to protect her to the point of death or to offer his life as a substitute for hers, where the opportunity presents itself. Passive, platonic love cannot achieve such a result.

The word the Bible uses when speaking of the love one Christian should have for another is ‘FERVENT’. This is described in the dictionary as having or displaying a passionate intensity or to be hot, burning or glowing.

Such a love (not to be confused with lust which is a false form of imitation) is therefore not to be lukewarm. It is to be like a fire, burning hot, not with destructive elements like anger, rage and the like but with all the elements of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

FERVENT love scoffs at the idea of anything or anyone coming in between that love, to bring about a separation. Because God loves those that are his FERVENTLY, absolutely nothing can break his love covenant with us. This is why Romans 8 reads:

  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Some Christians point to the Old Testament and say that back then, many marriages were arranged by the parents. This is true. There are even examples of women being taken to be the wives of men against their own will. This happened in Judges 21 where the Benjamite men abducted Shiloh women to be their wives against their will while they were out dancing because there was a shortage of women.

In the Bible it is also clearly seen that some couples operated solely on faith in God’s sure leading hand, marrying the person that God desired for them to marry. This is what Rebekah did, when Abraham’s servant travelled a far distance to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac.

Similarly, some people today believe that God ordained their being together and so they get married to strangers before properly getting to know them or to develop romantic love for them. In some cases, like Rebekah, this works out fine because God really did ordain for them to be together and God never makes a mistake. Such marriages thrive and the couple grow to love each other deeply in the marriage.

In other cases though, things go awfully wrong in the marriage, at which point it becomes clear that at least one of the spouses was deceived by the devil, into believing that that union had been approved by God, when in fact it had not. Such persons find themselves depressed in a marriage that remains loveless, fireless and without the passion and fidelity that true love brings. Others have been left wounded (from physical, psychological, mental, verbal and emotional abuse), while others have been abandoned, the spouse having flown the coup to seek what he perceives as ‘greener pastures’ elsewhere.

It is therefore, in my view, risky to rush into marriage with a stranger, especially where you are not deeply in love with each other. Many times what we believe is God’s confirmation is really our own selfish will and desperation, a will that does not want to wait on God to provide the kind of quality relationship that only he can provide and so it rushes in blindly.

It is strong, FERVENT love that will be willing to pardon when one person hurts the other in the marriage, as will inevitably occur with two imperfect individuals living together. The Bible knows what it is saying when it says that we are to love FERVENTLY, as love covers the multitude of sins.

I would like to point out at this juncture, that the command that Christians have been given under the new covenant in the New Testament as part of the body of Christ and his Church is to love one another FERVENTLY. Looking at what applied in the Old Testament therefore, when the old covenant with the Israelites was what was in effect is not prudent.

The Church is to be guided by the principles that emerge from the Old Testament where applicable but our instructions as to how we are to live and the extent of the love that we are to have is spelt out in the New Testament.

Even with this fact, I think it is important to remember that, even in the Old Testament where love did not seem to play an important factor in many of the decisions to get married, we were still given a taste of what FERVENT love in a relationship looks like.

It is the FERVENT (not platonic or passive) love that Jacob had for Rachel, that made him willingly offer to work for seven years for her father, without wages. It is the extent of the love which he had for her that made him consider seven long years to be like days, when compared to the quality prize he was to obtain. It was the FERVENCY of the love that he had for her that made him willing to work seven more years to get to marry her as his second wife, after Rachel’s father duped him into marrying her older sister Leah.

Had Jacob just loved Rachel platonically or as a friend, he would most likely have counted his losses when he discovered the treason and just remained with Leah. Yet, FERVENT love refused to settle and refused to let go. FERVENT love readied itself to fight for the subject of that love and so Jacob could not just walk away.

Genesis 29:16-30 reads:

  • “And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
  • And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her…And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
  • And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also…And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

Where FERVENT love exists, it also comforts. In the Old Testament, although Rebekah agreed to marry Isaac in faith, thankfully, it is clear that they did not have a platonic marriage because the union was definitely of God. At least from Isaac’s perspective, it appears he loved her FERVENTLY, so much so, that the Bible says she brought comfort to him after his mother’s passing. (Genesis 24:67).

From all that we have learned thus far therefore, FERVENT love is sacrificial and FERVENT love is pure. FERVENT love fights, FERVENT love comforts and FERVENT love is mightier than external separating influences. FERVENT love is merciful and pardons transgressions but FERVENT love also protects.

This was was seen in the New Testament, where Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant during their engagement and thought that she had (1) cheated on him and (2) committed the sin of fornication. The sin of fornication was to be met with the death penalty of stoning but although Joseph must have been hurting, must have felt betrayed, confused, disappointed, overwhelmed and saddened, his FERVENT love for Mary still made him instinctively want to protect her from the punishment.

The Bible states that he thought how to put her away privily. He knew that there was to be no continuation of their relationship (or so he thought at the time) and he was sure to be angry and grieving at how his plans had gotten turned upside down, yet he still desired to show mercy and compassion to Mary, even when he thought she did not deserve it.

This is a love that emulates the love that Christ has for the Church.

In your list of requirements for a godly Christian spouse therefore, it is important to add the requirement of FERVENCY. I would advise that, as a Christian woman, you only marry a Christian man where he loves you FERVENTLY and you him. This is approved of by God and brings glory to his name because it emulates the love that Jesus Christ has for us.

You don’t need to be perfect for a man to love you FERVENTLY and vice versa. Rachel was clearly imperfect when one studies the things she did like stealing her father’s idols, lying about it, idolizing her desire to have a child to the point where she preferred to die than to remain barren and keeping Jacob from her sister Leah, who was also married to Jacob. Yet, despite all of her character flaws, it is undeniable that Jacob loved her greatly.

If a union is of God, he is able to plant that FERVENCY in the hearts of the man and the woman for each other, even where it seems that they don’t deserve it maybe because of their past or because the world doesn’t consider them to be anything special. James 1:17 states: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

God can certainly grace every one of his daughters with a gift, by sending into their lives a godly man who will not just love them but FERVENTLY. He is also able to work on our hearts so that we love that man FERVENTLY as well.

(Written on 19th December, 2019)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative or edifying, you may also be interested in the following:

  • Note 21 – ‘Does He Love You Or Lust You?’
  • Note 31 – ‘What Is Romantic Love?’
  • Note 33 – ‘How Much Should He Love Me?’

Additionally, under the ‘SINGLE Daughters’ Page:

  • Note 311 – ‘How To Make A Man Love You’

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