Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Look at Love and Romance

Relationships are tough. It's not easy to maintain a healthy relationship with another person, and it certainly takes work on both parts. There are a few principles that we can look at to achieve it though and I am here to list them for you!

Now I should mention at the start of this article that it is not an apologetical entry. I am not seeking to demonstrate that God is real or that the Bible is to be trusted. Instead, I am working from a position that assumes these things and then draws conclusions from there. I am also going to examine the major (and minor) differences between what the Bible calls love and what secular American culture defines as love. My intent in this article, for those who do not wish to proceed, is to demonstrate that Christianity's definition of love is distinct and incompatible with secular definitions and to define love, affection, affinity, romance and lust. Here we go!

A Popular Book and Five "Love Languages"
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Physical Touch
3. Acts of Service
4. Gifts
5. Quality Time

Those are the five love languages that author Gary Chapman proposed in his book of the same title. The problem is, these are not love languages, these are ways that people communicate affection. It's superficially similar, but at the core, affection is very different from love. Love is defined in the Bible as:

1. Patient
2. Kind
3. Not Jealous (Content, Trusts)
4. Does Not Brag (Humble in Word)
5. Is Not Arrogant (Humble in Thought)
6. Does Not Act Unbecomingly (Modest)
7. Does Not Seek Its Own (Selfless)
8. Is Not Provoked (Calm)
9. Does Not Keep a Record of Wrongs (Forgives and Allows the Offender to Forget)
10. Bears All Things
11. Believes All Things
12. Hopes All Things
13. Endures All Things
14. Love Never Fails
15. It is Without Hypocrisy
16. Gives Preference to Others in Honor
17. Does No Wrong to a Neighbor
18. Love Edifies Others
19. Love is the Perfect Bond of Unity
20. Love Protects
21. Love Brings Joy
22. Love Brings Comfort
23. Love Covers a Multitude of Sins
24. Love is Honest
25. Love Brings Life
26. Love Reproves and Disciplines
27. Love is From God

Quite the list. But it creates a picture of love that is totally incompatible with the world's understanding and definition of love. At best, secular America can offer a diluted, incomplete version of what the Christian Bible describes. Here are the things it must necessarily omit:

--covers a multitude of sins (sin is arbitrary in a secular model)
--bring life (namely spiritual life)
--have its origin in God (God is redundant in a secular model)

Everything else on the list is conceivable, but as we will see, unlikely in a secular model.
Secular America's definition of love may be patient, but it is not necessarily patient. In contrast, the Bible does not speak to potential, but rather to reality. It is absolute. Love is patient. When defining love by Scripture, we don't have wiggle room. Love is always necessarily everything on the list above (and maybe more - I am not perfect, so I may have missed a few things in my research). But the world's view of love holds it in potentiality. Love can be patient. This paints a picture of something far more attainable, but decidedly weaker. Potential is never on par with reality.
So what is the reality of the secular version of love? Well, we have three main contenders. I'll dive into all of them.

1. Affinity
2. Affection
3. Lust

: a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas, or interests
: a liking for or an attraction to something
: a quality that makes people or things suited to each other

Notice the difference in affinity and the Biblical definition of love? This affinity has its foundation in qualities possessed by the recipient or similarities the two share. It is finite in scope and it is conditional. Affinity can fade if given the proper encouragement of changing moods and seasons of life. It hardly qualifies. Still, many people in the world today describe affinity when citing love.

1 : a moderate feeling or emotion
2 : tender attachment : fondness
3 (1) : a bodily condition (2) : disease, malady
b : attribute <shape and weight are affections of bodies>
4 obsolete : partiality, prejudice
5 : the feeling aspect (as in pleasure) of consciousness
6 : propensity, disposition
7 : the action of affecting : the state of being affected

As we can clearly see, there is a stark contrast between affection and the Biblical description of love. Affection has to do with how we feel. The primary issue with this is the fleeting and temporary nature of affection. At a whim it can be changed, redirected or dissolved altogether. It is based almost entirely on circumstance. Alternatively, Biblical love is a direct result of God's action upon us and within us. It is constant, reliable and predictable. That means that it is the complete antithesis of affection. Where affection is ever changing and unpredictable, love is consistent and predictable.

: a strong feeling of sexual desire
: a strong desire for something 

Lust has to do with desire and the fulfillment of our wants. Lust is only satisfied when we are first. Love, on the other hand, is satisfied when we put others first. Lust has to do with sex, but love has nothing inherently to do with sex. Love is full in itself, but lust is always hungry.
It is impossible to have love without God, because as human beings, we are predisposed to selfishness. Only by another force acting upon us can we set aside that old nature and adopt the new nature of selflessness.

Anyway, I'll have more soon! Stay tuned, America!

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