Tuesday we looked at what love is and we saw that God has defined love for us in His Word but ultimately within Himself. Today I want to look at how love, as we biblically understand it, is suppose to function within a marriage. I like to call what a husband and wife share “covenantal love.” What I mean by that is that this kind of love is deep and unconditional. It is marked and held together by a covenant. A man and woman make a covenant together on their wedding day and they vow to love each other all the days of their life. Even if or when that feeling of love diminishes or wanes for a time, that covenant holds them together, it binds them as one for life.
Marriage is a picture of the Gospel and a glimpse of the love that Christ has for His church and as such the covenantal love that a husband and wife share is much like the covenantal love that God has for His people. He has chosen them, He made a covenant with them, and He loves them. And even when they were unfaithful, and even when we’re unfaithful now, He remains faithful to the covenant. He continues to love us because of the covenant that He made. This is how marriage is suppose to function as well. We have chosen our spouse, we have vowed to remain faithful to the covenant, and even if one spouse strays in one way or another, the other remains faithful. Or even if there is no unfaithfulness involved, even if things fall apart for other reasons, the covenant is still there and it calls us to continue to love each other.
You see, this kind of love is not grounded in something superficial. It is not conditional to happiness or contentedness. Its foundation is not “as-long-as-you-don’t-do-___.” This kind of love stands on a covenant. It is this kind of love that will last forever because the covenant lasts forever. And at the end of the day, it is the covenant (between our spouse and ultimately between us and God) that motivates us to keep on loving, to improve ourselves as a spouse, to strengthen our marriage.
I believe that love begins outside of marriage but it is when you bring that covenant into the equation that we begin to experience and understand what real, true, lasting love is. People want to move in together and have sex before getting married so that they can test the waters and make sure they really are in love and that this will really work. But people, let me tell you, you have not experienced all that there is in a relationship before marriage. It doesn’t matter how long you have been together. That covenant that is established on the wedding day makes a huge difference. It ushers in deeper levels of love and commitment that you will never experience otherwise. I can honestly say that I love my husband more today than I did on the day of our wedding. I loved him then, without a doubt, that’s why I married him. But in the years since I have discovered an even deeper and satisfying love because of the covenant that we made with each other and with God. And as more years go by I am sure that our love will only deepen and grow even more.
You single people may not believe me and I know it sounds crazy, but covenantal love is the best form of human love and it can only be achieved through a marriage covenant. Unfortunately, not every married couple experiences this kind of love because many marriages end in divorce. The reason is that at least one spouse didn’t treat their marriage as a covenant. They didn’t honor it, cherish it, or protect it. They didn’t love it.
Covenantal love is profound and I’m grateful that God has given my husband and I the opportunity to know this kind of love. We have not yet “arrived” but we have the rest of our life together to know this love more deeply and to express it more effectively. And we can rest assured in the fact that no matter what happens the covenant remains and that will bind us together until death do we part.
I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day! If you are married, may you be encouraged today to honor the love and covenant between you and your spouse. And if you are single, may you be encouraged to continue to wait (as hard as that can be!) for God to bless you with this kind of love. Don’t settle for less. Love to you all!