Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
The truth be told, all individuals unconsciously and selfishly seek relationships based upon compatible neurotic needs; a neurotic need or neurosis is simply defined as a “self-defeating pattern of coping with life.”
As human beings we are all “sin sick” and consequently look for mates who fill the irrational “gaps” in our lives. For example, one person may have a neurotic need for affection or approval and would seek out another who has a neurotic need for power or to exploit others. Both individuals have needs which are unhealthy yet they seem to fit together because they feed each other’s neurotic needs. A biblical example of this can be found in the book of Esther with the actions of King Ahasuerus, Queen Vashti, and Esther. (I’ll speak more about the 10 areas of neurotic needs in my next blog.)
A more common example we’ve seen in the past is when young women marry much older men. Typically these are young women who had poor or at worse no relationships at all with their fathers and have a deep-rooted need for affection and approval. This also holds true for young men who marry much older women. My statements here aren’t meant to be offensive or derogatory; I simply want to point out how we choose those whom we will marry. We all have neurotic needs and until we become aware of them we tend to continuously make poor choices in our relationships.
For Christians our choice of a mate is the second most important decision we will ever make in life next to surrendering to Christ. The reality is this, for us to have a healthy marriage and relationship with our spouse we must first have a healthy relationship with Christ Jesus. This is the first area of compatibility that must be met because Christ is the one factor that will hold a marriage together when all else fails.
At this point I make one of my most controversial statements; except for the causes of abuse and threat of life divorce should never be a consideration for a Christian couple, and even then there can be a sense of hope in working out our problems. I truly believe if we’re surrendered to Christ then all our issues in a relationship can be worked through. Let me clarify my statement; if we’re prepared to put the will of God and the needs of others before our own, then we have a very good chance of not only holding a marriage together but making it better than it was before. The key here is allowing the Holy Spirit of God to permeate one’s life in order to make the necessary changes which are needed for healthy marriage. Each spouse is responsible for change, not that they seek to change each other but to change self based upon a personal recognition of true needs.
An individual’s true need for love can only be found in a relationship with Christ Jesus, yet the secular world operates on a perverted and neurotic view of love rooted in felt needs. Ask most anyone in our society to define love and no doubt most will struggle to provide an answer, and the answers do you receive will be a multiplicity of ideas ranging from a “feeling” to a “philosophy.”
For the Christian our idea of love is fixed in the Scriptures as revealed by the acts of God. True love is a choice to commit oneself to another unreservedly in spite of one’s feelings. As I’ve shared with many others through my years in ministry, “Feelings will often lie and mislead an individual into making poor life choices.”
Note the "Four Neurotic Views of Love" based upon a secular mindset:
1. I must have someone to love me in order to have a sense of value in my life.
The problem for this person is they believe others do not love them because they’re unlovable. This individual often asks the question, “What must I do to make you love me?” When this is our thinking it often leads to sexual promiscuity, low self-esteem, and possible physical and emotional abuse as well as other issues. The need to be loved becomes insatiable and therefore can never be met.
The real answer is that we are lovable because God has loved us before the foundation of the world. And because God loves us we need to learn to love ourselves understanding that our lives are sacred and valuable because they are created and established by by a loving God.
2. In order to be loved I must find the right person.
This leads us back to our introduction and thinking there is a “Mr. or Mrs. Perfect.” The idea is this, “Finding the right person to marry is hard but when I find them the loving will be easy.”
The reality is that finding someone isn’t hard but loving them is difficult because of our selfish sin nature. It’s much easier to get married than it is to stay married in our culture today. We’ve been given an easy way out with no-fault divorces and the removal of the stigma formally associated with broken marriages. We should seek to find a good mate with whom we are compatible on many levels.
I was once horrified to hear a church leader say compatibility was not that important in the beginning of a relationship. His belief was that the longer a couple stayed together the more compatible they would become. If two are not compatible on multiple levels from the start then the likelihood of the relationship/marriage lasting more than a few years isn’t promising. This is not to say issues of incompatibility can’t be overcome, but it takes a concerted effort on both spouses part to make the marriage work.
3. The stronger my feelings are for a person is an indication of the strength and depth of my love.
Many believe love begins as a feeling with the idea that we as human beings “fall in love” as some innate response as we mature. Our feelings for another person may be natural but they’re also very base in their origin, and what most people feel in the beginning of a relationship isn’t love but lust.
A major issue with this belief is that if one can “fall in love” then one can also “fall out of love.” The biggest problem with this faulty thinking is that once the “original feelings” are gone then so is the love.
Are there feelings associated with love? Absolutely! Just do not allow your feelings of exhilaration, amazement and most likely lust to rob you of your objectiveness.
4. Our society often generalizes love and argues, “You can’t choose who you love.”
This argument is closely aligned with number three above and is used most often by those who support homosexuality and gay marriage. My answer to the fourth view is "HOGWASH."
For some love is all or nothing. It is all-consuming and over time it decreases to zero. The best examples are often found in Hollywood couples. Remember Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and Tom jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch declaring he was head over heels in love with Katie? Hum, how’s that marriage working out?
The answer is in realizing that love begins as a choice, or better yet a commitment we make regardless of our feelings and the generalized views of society. Case in point; God chose to love the “world” in eternity past by surrendering His Son as a ransom for mankind’s fall, and He did so knowing humanity as a whole would reject Him and His love.
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Before I close I want to reiterate one point. Through prayer and sound judgment as we seek God’s will we are to search for a good match not a perfect match. We are to look for those who are compatible with us based upon our religious beliefs and commitments. We should also consider other areas of similarity such as education levels, cultural, and socioeconomic likenesses just to name a few.
Love isn’t a mystical experience and when we make it so it often leads to disillusionment and sorrow. Marriage is a conscious commitment which takes a great deal of effort on each spouse's part. Every marriage or relationship should begin with a “seed of love” which is to be planted, nourished, and cultivated in order to help it grow. Like any other living organism you can kill love through selfishness. Marriages do not fail because two people had love and lost it but because they never really committed to loving each other or cultivating the relationship as directed in the Scriptures.
Today I love my wife exponentially more than I did thirty years ago. My feelings for her are not based upon a set of felt needs but upon my ever-increasing commitment to her and to Christ Jesus. Through my walk with Christ and the study of His Word I have been able to understand not only what a good Christian marriage should be but what a good Christian husband should be. Christ demonstrated this for His Church in a very real sense when He willingly laid down His life for His Bride.
Be good to one another and cultivate the love you have for your spouse and in so doing you will honor God.
Peace be with you,
I give thanks for the tutelage of Dr. Philip Captain, and Dr. Miller, (former professors of Psychology at Liberty University), and Dr. David LeGrand (former professor of Biblical Studies at Piedmont Baptist College and Seminary) along with numerous others for their help in understanding the principles of a Christian marriage as outlined in the Scriptures.