If you define love as certain feelings or a special set of emotions, then wedding vows to love each other are not very significant. Feelings and emotions come and go, and if the stability of a relationship depends on the fickleness of how we feel, it certainly will not be for “as long as we both shall live.” We would not have the audacity to stand at the alter and actually say “I am in this marriage for as long as I feel like it. If the emotions go, I’m out of here.”
The Greek language has four words that correspond to our one word love:
- Storge = Love for cornflakes, sunsets, cats, etc.
- Eros = Sensual passion
- Philio = Love for family and friends
- Agape = God’s love
Pledging “to love” your spouse obviously has more to do than the first three, although they are important. Your tastes can change. You do not care for cornflakes anymore. Everybody loves sex; however, that is not enough to sustain marriage for a lifetime, and certainly love in a marriage will be more than your love for your brother or sister. C. S. Lewis’ little book, The Four Loves is a great presentation on this subject.
Marriage love should be more than emotions and feelings. It should be a commitment of your will to conduct yourself in specific ways. Feelings will come and go, tastes will change, but the commitment to the marriage should be much stronger than transient emotions and personal taste.
The apostle Paul gives a wonderful definition of agape love in his letter to the church at Corinth. In most of the weddings that I officiate here at Whitestone Country Inn,
I use my paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of what God’s love is and what it is not.
1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have no love, I am no more than clanging brass or clashing cymbals. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and possess all human knowledge, even including the very secrets of God, and if I have so much faith that I can speak and mountains will be moved but do not have love I am still nothing. If I give everything I possess to the poor and even give my own body to be burned as a martyr, but I do not love, I achieve precisely nothing. I am bankrupt without love. Love from God is patient, it is always kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is never rude; it does not seek selfish advantages. It is not easily angered or touchy. It does not keep track of evil. It shares the joy of those who live by the truth. This kind of love knows no end to its endurance, no limit to its trust, and no fading of its hope. It can outlast anything. Love like this never fails.”
A pledge to love based on 1 Corinthians 13 is a pledge that will provide stability and security where true love can flourish for a lifetime. All marriages experience mountaintops and valleys. If love is not defined as actions, a commitment of conduct, then divorce is justified based on emotions.
Renew your commitment to your marriage by redefining your love for your spouse based on a commitment to conduct yourself in the loving ways described in 1 Corinthians 13. It is how God loves us and as Paul concludes “it can outlast anything.”