The “L” Word

I have been giving love a TON of thought this summer. I’ve been mulling over how our culture uses it, how God’s church uses it, how I use it, how the media uses it, etc. and I have come to a conclusion: Most can’t come up with a definition, and those that can have given some pretty crappy definitions that aren’t even definitions at all (more on that later).

As of right now, I’m planning on doing a few blogs on this topic, but maybe not all one right after another. To try to cover multiple facets of this in one blog would mean this would be the size of a short novel. This particular blog will cover the way we Christians use the word “love” when it comes to dating relationship and marriage.

A few weeks ago I found myself in a discussion over Deuteronomy 22: A chapter that covers the punishment for things like taking advantage of a woman, consensual sex, etc. Some of the final few verses delve into the punishment for the “rape” (if you’d like to know why it’s in quotes, it’s because we CANNOT apply our definition of Western, brutal, vicious rape to the Hebraic word that is used. There is NO biblical evidence for applying such a definition) of a woman who is not pledged to be married to another man. The punishment is that he is to pay the girl’s father 50 shekels and he must marry her and not divorce her all the days of her life. He is to care for her from there on out. Wait, what? A man rapes a girl and she has to marry him? Yeah, loving.

Actually, yes.

Remove your adorable, butterfly-giving, heart-racing, OH MY GOSH HE’S WONDERFUL! feelings and definition of love. Don’t even bring that to the table because that’s nothing but crap. Humor me and assume that you don’t have a good definition of love if you have even the slightest hint that you might think love might fit the definition I just gave. If you define love as being thrilled to be around someone even when you’re bored, if you define love as finishing each others’ sentences and then giggling about how you must be so wonderful for each other, if you define love as having found that one person that just makes you “feel” different, then assume you’re someone who doesn’t have a decent definition of love. Just humor me for a second.

Back to our raped Israeli girl.
Let’s talk about a shekel. This was not a coin. The rapist did not pay 50 coins of silver. Consider a shekel to be equal with a pound. Fifty POUNDS of silver. This was not one month, two months, or even two YEARS worth of wages. This could have been as much as TEN YEARS’ WORTH of wages. Find me another culture in this time period that would have punished so severely (or even at all) for the rape of a woman. Keep in mind that during this time, women were NOT highly valued. For there to be this big of a punishment was huge. And that wasn’t it: he had to marry the girl. If he didn’t, she had one option: prostitution. Virginity was so highly valued that if a woman wasn’t a virgin, she was worthless. She was dirty and had an irreplaceable flaw. Prostitution was the only option. Now that she had had her virginity taken away, she couldn’t be with another man. For him to have to marry her, support her, care for her, etc. is, again, a consequence of his actions…and that’s ON TOP of having to pay fifty shekels. Tell me something.. If he is spending a decade of his life paying for what he has done, don’t you think the father is going to keep a close watch on how his daughter is being treated within the marriage? With reprimands this extreme, how often do you think rape even occurred?! In the end, is this not itself love?

Ah ah, wait. You’re saying no. You have picked up your definition of love again. Put that thing back down, I’m not done!

What if love has absolutely NOTHING to do with emotions? I don’t mean that there is just a small part of love that has to do with emotions, I mean there isn’t a single darn thing that connects love and emotion. But how could that possibly be true? Don’t we as Christians tell each other all the time within dating relationships that, “Well, if you just aren’t feeling it, maybe you should just end it?” In our culture, that makes total sense. It makes PERFECT sense, actually. Our culture is all about feelings. How many times a day do you hear others say or say yourself, “I feel like…” For example, “I feel like that doesn’t make sense.” You don’t FEEL like that. You THINK it doesn’t make sense. How we have overused such words! Words mean things, folks!

To quote a verse that we all know by heart (haha, what irony…): John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son..” etc etc.

Another verse. 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

I see nothing about butterflies in the tummy, gigantic smiles on the face, etc. In fact, both of those verses are sobering. Both verses tell us what was given up: a son and a life. Sacrifice. The level of commitment is incomprehensible to those of us who have never had to go to such lengths (and as far as I know, I haven’t yet met anyone else who has given up a child to save the world, nor have I met a person willing to endure crucifixion to save anyone else).

Love also has nothing to do with attraction. I find it slightly humorous that among Christians today we often find ourselves saying, “Well, there has to be SOME level of physical attraction there. I don’t think God has a problem with that.” After giving that some thought, I think we’ve bought into another lie. Jesus didn’t die for the attractive people. We don’t lay down our lives for our attractive Christian brothers and sisters. That’s not a requirement. So why in the world have we added that to our standards for “love” in a relationship? Oh, because you’re looking for marriage and you want to be attracted to the person you’re having sex with? I’m calling shenanigans on this one. You’re entering into a relationship for what reason? We must first start there. There is a multitude of answers here, but quite frankly if the answer isn’t an honest answer of, “To glorify God in seeking marriage,” then we’re dating and seeking marriage for selfish reasons. Marriage isn’t about you. I don’t have to be married to understand that. Shouldn’t marriage be a commitment? Shouldn’t it be a sacrifice? I have this really big inkling that if you commit yourself to a relationship and commit yourself to selflessly serving the other person and consistently putting their needs before your own and they’re doing the same, chances are you’re going to wind up attracted to them at some point. I honestly believe that. You’re going to see a side of them that others aren’t seeing, and the same will be true for them seeing you. We have so heavily influenced a physical attraction because we’re going to be waking up beside this person for the rest of our lives. What the heck are you gonna do when all of a sudden you’re 50 years old and you don’t have the body or the face you once did? We ask this question all the time, but we don’t seriously consider it.

We all believe that there “has” to be some sort of physical attraction (myself included. I’m not exempt from having bought into this culturally-induced fabrication), but I just don’t find a biblical basis for it. Marriages were arranged, to begin with. Both parties didn’t always have a say. “Oh, but that was the culture then, Hannah. It’s different today.” Correct you are. Does a change in culture merit a change in truth though? Don’t we become more like the world when we allow that sort of reasoning in regards to something like this?

We do the same when we say, “But I just feel different with him/her.” Love is a feeling? A temporary feeling that WILL die? Please find me a couple who has been married for five decades that has been sustained by such a statement. Brothers and sisters, we can’t continue to trick ourselves into believing that this sort of thing is “okay.” The divorce rate is over 50% in America right now, and Christians aren’t exempt from that! That tells me that more than one couple has probably tried to sustain their relationship on these sorts of concepts! Marriage is no longer sacred in society today. It’s not fought for selflessly.

I know that many (if not most) of my Christian friends will disagree with me. I don’t have a problem with that. But if the first judgment call we’re making when it comes to getting to know someone is based on whether or not we’re immediately carnally attracted to them, then we’re already starting out on the wrong foot because we’ve made our pursuit of love about us. Perhaps it may do some of us some good to get to know the person we haven’t immediately been attracted to. While it may not end in a relationship, it could probably end in us being better humans. Heaven forbid we give people the time of day.
I’m sure somehow, some way, someone could find a verse in the Bible in an attempt to prove me wrong. If you have to try really super hard, then I’d question the legitimacy to begin with, but once again, who’s it about? You? If so, we’ve lost sight of what love is.

Hear me when I say that I am not intending to berate any other Christian’s views on this topic. I’m simply trying to provide a bit of push-back in regards to it. I hear the word “love” used all the time (and I catch myself using it far too often as well) and it’s starting to get underneath my skin. What do we mean when we use the word? Can we define it or are we simply attempting to explain an emotional high/reaction to something new or something we haven’t experienced in a long time?

To be honest, I have been guilty of believing all of the above mentioned definitions of love. This summer I have really been giving a ton of thought to love on all fronts, not just relationship-y love as I said before I dove into this. This particular topic is rather close to my heart (ha! again! irony!) because I hate, I mean absolutely ABHOR divorce and how often it occurs among Christians today. It’s why for a time I wanted to study marriage & family counseling because I wanted to help in combating this phenomena among couples today. I hope that we as Christians are constantly looking at how our lives say we define love. I am, but I know I have a long way to go. It’s never too late to start doing things differently.

Pray. Seek. Do.

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One thought on “The “L” Word

  1. Willie Mac says:

    Hannah, let me say that I agree with you mostly. I do believe that we do not have a better concept of love than that which we find in the love of Christ for his bride the Church. Few of us ever make it to this golden level of Christ-likeness. I do believe that we put too much stock into our feelings; especially feelings that are based upon superficiality. However, I do think that feelings are not only necessary in our love relationships with one another, but also our love relationships with God. They will not always be rosy, cosy feelings…but there will be feelings nonetheless! We live in a different society that goes about the task of marriage and romance differently than either the Old Testament Jews or the New Testament Christians! We don’t have a lot of straight guidance on the subject other than what we should look for in each other and that it is better to marry than to burn with lust. So, I think prayer, wisdom, and discernment are in order. Plus, the feelings should be based on what one sees of God in the other person; Christians who are living in the Spirit should be attracted to others living in the Spirit. My attraction to my current girlfriend is compounded by what I see in her: the forging image of Christ. So, yes beware of mushy feelings that go up and down with time; however, our feelings should be based on our enjoyment and love for Christ who is in each of us.

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