Saturday, December 12, 2009

Love (a new perspective)

What about me? What about my preferences? What about my wants, my needs, what about me? Is this type of questioning appropriate for a married man? Is any reasoning focused on self at home within the marital context? These are questions that make me feel equivalent to a small boy sitting alone in a dark room in the corner scared to death to do anything. As much as living life out of love rather than fear makes sense I find myself fearing my own demise and failure of a huge principle that I will soon be called to obey and follow. I know it is for the best and I know that a marriage should operate by both parties having no focus on themselves, but how do I do that? The command that sends me into armadillo mode is this:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-28).

Alright, so there are several questions I have when I read this little ditty. What is love? How did Christ love the church? What does this all mean for me?

What is love?
Well, what word was used? Being that the Bible was not written to me, an American man in 2009 or in English we need to understand what word and language was actually used in the original script. The word used in that passage is agapa. Husbands, agapa you wives, just as Christ agapa’d the church and gave himself up for her… Apparently there are 5 words for love in Greek. When I say I love pizza, it is not the same as saying I love my fiancĂ© nor is it the same as saying it to a good male friend. The other 4 types of love in Greek are philos, eros, sturge, and epithemia.

Philos=brotherly, or friendship love
Eros=Romantic, sexual love
Agape=Unconditional, all-consuming love
Surge= old friends connecting after a long time... where things appear to pick up exactly where they left off... even if many decades intervened...
Epithemia - overwhelming desire to give all (not sexual)

Aright, agape, what does that mean for me? What does unconditional love look like? Well, what does conditional love look like?

Conditional- imposing, containing, subject to, or depending on a condition or conditions; not absolute; made or allowed on certain terms
Unconditional- not limited by conditions; absolute

My love should be unconditional. That is tough because everything we encounter within our environment is based upon some sort of condition, everything is conditional. I do my job based up on the condition of getting paid. My employer pays me based on the condition of me meeting goals and such. Everything is persuaded by conditions, weather, emotions, politics, money, opinion, etc. Now something as intimate as a relationship you are committing to for the rest of your natural life if supposed to be unconditional. I can’t think of anything that is unconditional, but my love for someone is supposed to be? No matter what conditions may be I am still supposed to love. We’ll talk about this a bit later. What exactly is love though? The same word, agape, is used a little bit later in the bible, tucked away in a letter written by Paul to a church.

Love (agape) is patient, love (agape) is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love (agape) does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love (agape) never fails.

This unconditional love suddenly gets even more complicated, on top of the already difficult task of being unconditional. One of the most intricate tasks I’ve been challenged to was to replace my name for the word love. The reasoning behind this was that if I am supposed to be a follower of Christ who was God and God is love then so should I, be love. So I tried and became very saddened of how much of a failure I was within that challenge. You should try it, it is quite humbling.

Christ loved the Church
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
Another word study is required here I think. What does gave himself up mean?

Just as Christ gave Himself- Greek word= paraded
1. to give into the hands (of another)
2. to give over into (one's) power or use
a. to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage
b. to deliver up one to custody, to be judged, condemned, punished, scourged, tormented, put to death

Christ loved the church by giving himself into the hands of others, he released his everything. He gave Himself into another’s power or use to keep, use, take care of, manage, he gave Himself into the custody of others to judge, condemn, punish, scourge, torment, and ultimately put to death. What I am not saying is I am required to let my wife kill me unjustly. I’ve heard it said that the person you love has the greatest capacity to hurt you the worst and I believe it, especially in light of this whole idea.

What does this mean to me? Seems that marriage is more about sacrifice than anything we are ever taught in school or church. Seems like marriage is about sacrifice and taking the words like me and I out of the conversation. Living out of fear that you will not get your way or that you will get hurt extinguishes the power of love, the power of a true marriage, of a true husband. Do I trust this concept enough to live it out though? Can I stop fearing that I am not a factor and live as if she is what matters most, more than myself even?

Based on this little study I decided to venture into I’ve come up with a few things. Adam is supposed to offer unconditional love. I should be patient, kind, not envious, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking (probably most important), not easily angered, keep no records of wrongs, rejoice with truth and not rejoice with evil, always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere, and never fail. If I’m offering love unconditional then it will not fail because it will not be molded by external conditions. I am supposed to give myself, my feelings, my desires, my concerns over to another (J) to keep, use, take care of, and manage. I should love in such a way that it is all in the hands of another. Is this something I can do? Rather than fear that I will fail, which I am sure I will, I should pursue this love and being a good husband. It seems that love is a painful process that someone chooses, choosing to give it away rather than this romantic idea of reciprocal emotions and respect being exchanged. Maybe if we viewed love like this we’d be more free to operate within it and become less disappointed, less anxious, and have less unrealistic expectations. If a husband lived love like this, even though sometimes it will hurt and be painful, what else could a wife do but return this love? But again, it’s not about the return, it’s about the willingness to invest. Question is, is it an investment we (husbands or husbands to be) are willing to make and remind ourselves of daily?

This has been a very sobering look at love for me, a sobering look at what the labor of love actually calls for, a sobering look at what a husband should be. This has challenged me to my core, challenged me to love (truly) and challenged me to stop worrying about myself so much. This has truly been more of a mirror to myself than anything else. I used to think marriage would be hard because you had to constantly put up with someone else and all their flaws, but what I’ve found is an inverse principle. The hardship of marriage will be constantly seeing myself and my selfishness. Getting over my pride and selfish desires is the challenege. The otherside of the mirror doesn’t look so pretty in light of all this, my own reflection haunts me in light of this love and so the pain comes in looking into and at myself. I really want to be a good husband and hope that you will join me in praying that the Spirit would give me guidance and strength to endure love, to be love. Regardless of the return I pray I would pour out love and be a loving husband.

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