What is the definition of love? Ask three different people, and you’ll likely get three different definitions. For most people love is largely subjective, based on their personal feelings and experiences. As such love is almost impossible to define objectively. Indeed, it may be easier to describe it than to define it. The most comprehensive definition is found in scripture: “…God is love.” (1 Jn. 4:8).
Most people would cite love as the fundamental basis for marriage. But emotion is usually the driving force in the love that leads to a couple getting married. If their love remains primarily emotional it will probably wane within a fairly short period of time, and they will find their marriage in jeopardy. While emotion is a vital component in the love between a husband and wife, love that will sustain a marriage relationship must develop a depth greater than mere emotion. For a marriage to endure, the love within that marriage must be unconditional!
By inspiration the apostle Paul penned a powerful and instructive treatise on love in his first letter to the Corinthian congregation (1 Cor. 13: 1-13). The love of which he wrote in that text is agape love, often described as the highest form of love referenced in the Greek language in which the New Testament was written. Agape love is not based upon emotion or physical attraction. It is a willful, determined love extended as a result of one individual making up his mind that he will love another individual.
The individual extending such love may not be loved in return. Indeed, the person he is determined to love may not even like him. That’s not the point. He doesn’t love that person because he necessarily deserves to be loved, he loves him because he needs to be loved. It may that the person is pretty much unlovable. But the one practicing agape love loves him anyway.
This sounds rather strange considering our present cultural mindset. We expect to get something in return for our investment. Whether the investment is in the form of money, time or emotion, we want to receive in turn for what we lay out.
Many people refer to marriage as a 50-50 relationship. Each spouse should meet the other half way. There’s the problem- marriage is not a 50-50 relationship! For marriage to work, for it to be as rich and fulfilling and rewarding as God designed it to be, for it to last two lifetimes each spouse must give a full 100% commitment to the relationship.
Sometimes a husband or wife will come up short in fulfilling their commitment to the marriage. Other times a marriage will be put under extra strain due to debilitating illness or financial reversal. There’s where agape love comes into play.
Agape love is the deep love that will sustain the relationship in the face any trial. Agape love kicks in when one spouse or the other is unlovable. Agape love refuses to give up on the marriage when worldly logic says, “Walk away, get a divorce!” Agape love continues to love unconditionally.
More often than not, agape love prevails. It is as Paul put it in another of his inspired letters: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). Unconditional love…
Gary L. Hutchens