Perhaps you have experienced this a time or two in your marriage. Your wife is feeling particularly romantic, but in her own searching way. Wives are like that! When my wife and I were younger, and we were in bed together at night in our love nest which seemed to make the whole world go away, she would suddenly ask me, “Honey, do you love me?” The first time she did that it caught me off guard. “Of course, my sweetheart , I love you with all of my heart,” I said hoping to reassure her. Sometimes she would ask me when we both had assumed the falling asleep position. Then I remembering once answering her kidingly, “Honey I love you so much it hurts, or is that your knee in my back,” Not smart! I immedicately regrettted my answer and never said anything like that again.
And then often after her “Do you love me?” question, and after a few moments of silence on my part in which I was trying to come up with something original that would top the last time, came the inevitable, “Why do you love me?” That question is far more treacherous than the first. I learned over the years that unless you handle that question with kid gloves, you could dig yourself an instant hole in which you might have to linger for days. I discovered that the question, “Why do you love me?” was a potential rap. At least that is the way it seemed to me in those early years of our young and most vulnerable marriage.
Upon much reflection on the difficulty of her second question and my struggle to come up with that super-satisfying answer for her, I began to discover something over the years that was truly liberating, and even more astounding. First of all when she asked me, “Why do you love me?” I found myself struggling for the right words. I would pause and then stumble over myself and say, “Ah, ah, ah.” I resembled in those critical moments a husband in those old silent films. My silence was as loud as a grenade going off in our love nest, and it did about the same amount of damage. That unintended hesitancy and silence then caused her to say, “See you don’t love me!” She was floating on love clouds, and my non-answer yanked her by the ankle back to earth with a painful thud.
Dear Lord, why was I getting into trouble when I was sincerely trying to answer and assure her of my love for her, and then I ended up being accused of not loving her? Thank God that I was able by His grace to negotiate the rapids of those moments and bring us to much more peaceful and calm waters. At least until next time!
It was then that I began to understand some things that are incredibly profound. Everything that I said to her as reasons for my love for her, always sounded to me so trite and canned. Oh goodness yes, I am blessed by her sweetness and her unselfishness. She has such a good and pure heart. I count myself to be the most blessed husband in the world because she is the best wife in the world. I told her all of those things, and so have you to your wife in one form or another. But I was coming into the realization of agape-realities so incredibly profound and so overwhelming. I still haven’t sorted it all out, and I doubt that I ever will.
AGAPE – NO BEGINNING – NO END
Now we must hang on to our seats folks, and tighten our seat belts, for we are going to be propelled into a much higher love-orbit than we have ever imagined. We must gird up the loose end of our minds for some such profound love realities that they will leave our brains limp. But when it comes to God’s love in us, it is when our minds are feeling like they are on the edge of a far-out nowhere is when we are really getting somewhere. Then we are just starting to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3:19)
We read in Psalm 90:2 about God,
If you will, God has two reference points when it comes to the past and future. His first point of reference is “From Everlasting,” and His second point of reference is “To Everlasting.” That is to say, God is eternal and therefore has no beginning and no end. If you will:
“NOTHING AND NO ONE CAUSED GOD TO BE, AND NOTHING AND
NO ONE SHALL CAUSE HIM NOT TO BE.”
Take that in deep and slow. Now then, take that together with the well know words of I John 4:16,
First of all, love is not an it, but love is a Person. Love is God and God is love. That means my love for Ruth is greater than anything in Ruth. In fact, our love for each other is infinitely bigger than both of us, because God is that love. Being Christians, though young and inexperienced, we both began to understand why I was having such a hard time answering Ruth’s “Final Love Exam” question and more often than not flunked the test. I was not only loving her with a love that surpassed knowledge, but by the same token a love that therefore surpassed expression. A love so far above human thought, and so much deeper than human expression, that it is now common that all we can now do in expressing our love for each other is weep tears which themselves hold oceans of meaning.
I know that many of you know exactly what I mean. We have discovered that our inability to express the inexpressible love that we have for each other is the greatest assurance we can give to each other of our love.
Second, so then because God is eternal, and God is love, therefore love is eternal. If you will:
“NOTHING AND NO ONE CAUSED LOVE TO BE, AND NOTHING AND
NO ONE SHALL CAUSE LOVE NOT TO BE.”
Love is from everlasting to everlasting, and God is the source of that all enduring love. What great good news for young and old lovers, young and old newlyweds, for with Christ in their hearts they can find a love that never began and a love that will never end. They thrillingly participate in a love about which we read in I Corinthians 13:8,
“Love (God) never fails.”
With God-Agape in your truly born-again hearts, you don’t have to be anxious about losing each other in a statistically dismal “Divorce Culture.” We have the Agape-God in our hearts, and when the Holy Spirit, the Divine-Cupid shoots His arrow of marital love into our hearts for someone, our hearts can never fall out of love again. Agape is gloriously fatal! We never recover. Love sick unto death – until death do us part. It is a love that never began, and a love that never ends. Now the only way to fall out of love is to fall out of God for God is love.
By the way, that is why this talk about God’s forever and enduring agape makes the Hollywood mentality very nervous, because they always want the exit door left open in marriage so they can continue to play the field. Today society plans for divorce before the marriage takes place – Pre-Nups. Without pre-nuptial agreements, marriage for the godless looks like a prison sentence with no possibility of parole. It is then a death sentence on death row. Pre-Nups are just another symptom of a post-Christian society. However, Christian spouses are so in love that they weep when they think about death ending their marriage. They want it to last forever! They can’t imagine life without each other. Pre-Nups are simply words for Pre-Cancer.
AGAPE IS ITS OWN CAUSE
Well then, because God is love, love is eternal. Nothing caused His love to be and nothing can cause His love not to be. And now we start getting into the awesome glory of it all, and it is this:
“GOD’S LOVE – AGAPE – IS IT’S OWN INFINITE REASON, IT’S OWN DIVINE CAUSE,
IT’S OWN ETERNAL SOURCE.”
Now then, I am going to say this many ways to help us grasp this incredibly and overwhelmingly good news about the miracle love of God. Listen again:
“AGAPE NEEDS NO MOTIVATION OUTSIDE OF ITSELF TO LOVE, AND TO
KEEP ON LOVING.”
Why is that such glorious good news? Simply because God’s love does not and cannot be turned on, because it is eternally turned on! And not only that , but everything in us by nature was a turn off, and God’s love would have been turned off by us if it was anything short of agape. In fact, we as sinner were the biggest turn offs on earth. That is the awesomeness of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it this, that God’s love gave to us His best when we were at our worst. Or as Romans 5:8 states,
“But God demonstrates His own love (agape) to us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us.”
“AGAPE IS NOT AFFECTED BY EXTERNAL STIMULI, AND NEEDS NO JUST-RIGHT
CONDITIONS OUTSIDE OF ITSELF TO BE ABLE TO LOVE
AND KEEP ON LOVING.”
Glory to God! Because everything in us was absolutely wrong. Nothing was just right! Nothing! BUT GOD! BUT AGAPE! Romans 5:8 speaks of the most glorious BUT in the entire Bible! It is the miracle AGAPE BUT!
Boy is this a wake up call. Agape is not affected by eternal stimuli be they positive or negative. As an aside, in this regard, Michael Vick, the ex-quarter back for the Atlanta Falcons, and now an ex-convict, has aroused a strong contempt in many people for him, and I must confess shamefully, at times in me as well. Boy oh boy, what a major turn-off if there ever was one. Michael had been running a dog-fighting ring for big money, as pit bulls were trained to tear each other to shreds, and if they were beaten and crippled but didn’t die in the fight, they were put to death. I found myself thinking about putting a foaming-at-the-mouth pit bull in Vick’s prison cell and see how he liked it.
Then I realized what was happening to me! I was becoming a pit bull, and I found myself hating and being externally conditioned by Vick’s despicable and inhumane behavior. I have since confessed my sin of hate and “Agapiclessness” which is “Godlessness.” And when I confessed my sin to God, I saw a black form receding from me, and it wasn’t Michael Vick! The Devil was having his way with me just exactly like he had been having his way with Michael Vick. I praise God that Michael’s wife and children were still there for him when he was released from prison. Now I am there for him too since Jesus released me from my agapicless heart. I am living the miracle of God’s love again.
“AGAPE IS SELF-PROPELLED, INWARDLY MOTIVATED, SELF SUSTAINED
AND IS ITS OWN GENERATOR.”
BECAUSE I LOVE YOU
While my wife was caught in her “he loves me, he loves me not” agony in those early years, I was coming into the glorious understanding of the true ecstasy of God’s miracle agape. I began to realize that I too had for my whole life thought only of love as follows:
“I LOVE YOU BECAUSE.”
Now I realized that agape is its own cause, its own reason, its own source, and that true Christian love is:
“BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.”
It so gripped me one day when I was reading Deuteronomy 7:6-8 and God’s words to His people,
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has
chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the
peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
“The Lord did set His love upon you nor choose you because you were
more in number than any of the peoples, for you the fewest
of all peoples, but because the Lord loves you….”
Absolutely mind boggling! God tells His chosen people Israel that He chose them not because they were numerically impressive. If they thought that they were attractive to God because of their size, He puts that to rest in short order. In fact the opposite is the case, as they were the dinkiest people of all the peoples on earth. He could have chosen any one the others, but instead he chose the midget. Agape isn’t impressed by statistics or measurements.
Well then, they thought, it must be something else about us that made us magnetic and attractive to God. It must be, so they thought, that we are more righteous than all of the nations of the earth. You know , sort of like Old Testament Pharisees! We are more His type! We are the prototype of what all of God’s people should be like. We surely must have been magnetic, and God was irresistibly drawn to us. Nice try, but forget it! This is what He says about His chosen people in Deuteronomy 9:6,
“Understand, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good
land to possess it because of thy righteousness, for you are
a stiff necked people.”
A slam-dunk right in their faces! They were not chosen, picked, holy and married to God because they were impressive and righteous. They were a tiny stiff-headed bunch. Frankly, not very appealing whatsoever! Now get this Israel:
“GOD DID NOT CHOOSE YOU BECAUSE YOU WERE SO DESIRABLE,
BUT BECAUSE THE LORD LOVED YOU HE CHOSE YOU
AND FINDS YOU DESIRABLE .”
Wow! When it comes to God’s miracle agape, it is never first of all, “I love you because,” but rather it is, “Because I love you.” Agape is its own eternal reason, it own eternal cause, its own eternal stimulus. And because Israel was loved by God, they were his chosen and special people. If we don’t get this through our heads about true love, we get nothing. So it was again that He says what He says in Jeremiah 31:3 to his beloved:
“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me saying, ‘I have loved thee with an
everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
Incredible but true. Because God loved us He wooed us. God does not love us because he sees our potential, or because we are so spiritually superior, or because we have not failed Him. None of the above!
“GOD DOES NOT LOVE BECAUSE OF ANYTHING, BUT ONLY BECAUSE
HE LOVES US.”
Oh sure, there were some strong things that attracted me to my girlfriend-to-be-wife in our youth. I was drawn to her cuteness, her wink, her sweetness and her humbleness. Above all her love for Jesus! God used those things to be sure, but as time went on in our marriage, love had grown into something that I had never experienced before. That was because I was growing in Christ and therefore growing in agape. Then it dawned on me like the most glorious sunrise I had ever seen:
“AGAPE DOES NOT REQUIRE BEAUTY, IT DISCOVERS IT.”
I was now swimming and deep-sea diving in an ocean of agape, which makes all other loves mud-puddles in comparison. The beauty in my wife became inexpressible and is to this day. And what had caused me to be drawn to her paled in comparison to what my love for her revealed in her. And now that we are getting older, the bodies have begun to more than show their wear and tear, and our externals are beginning to sag, BUT my agape for Ruth is discovering her day by day as more beautiful, more thrilling and more precious than all of my “I love you becauses” ever realized.
NO IF’S IN AGAPE
“I WILL LOVE YOU IF.”
That is just the way it is apart from God. God’s agape is available to us in Jesus Christ and in no one or nowhere else. Jesus is agape with skin on! Apart from Him:
-I will love you if you respond on my terms.
-I will love you if you see things as I do.
-I will love you if you promise never to get fat.
-I will love you if you provide what I want.
-I will love you if you learn to kiss better.
-I will love you if you show me more attention.
I have met all of the above in marriage counseling. There is not one hint of agape in any of it, because “IF” has no place in true love – Agape. Agape needs no external conditions to be met in order to love and keep on loving. Are we beginning to see it now? God says in John 3:16,
“For God so loved (agapao) the world THAT….”
He does not say,
“For God so loved the world IF….”
To add to the marriage counseling menagerie, here are some actual quotes spoken in my presence by those who were intending to divorce their spouses and why:
-She leaves me flat.
-I don’t feel the old zip when I am around him anymore.
-He isn’t a good kisser and lover like the other guy I have met.
-She really is boring intellectually.
-My husband is a flop conversationally.
-She just isn’t aggressive in “love-making.”
My answer to all of that is, “Whoopee! Nothing to do with God! Nothing to do with agape! God cannot relate one stitch to what you are saying.” Agape is its own reason and supply, and it cannot be turned off, because it cannot be turned on! Agape is its own eternal turn-on. In total contradistinction, Agape says:
-Because I love you, you are stunning.
-Because I love you, you are precious beyond words.
-Because I love you, you are fantastically exciting.
-Because I love you, your kisses are like honey.
-Because I love you, you are my all in all.
That is why there is not one marriage that is safe apart from agape, especially in a world where the highest love is, “I will love you if.” Every marriage apart from God-s agape is IFFY at best. As a matter of fact, God’s agape is the only safe marital love, simply because:
“AGAPE NOT ONLY DOES NOT LOVE BECAUSE OF, BUT IN FACT
LOVES IN SPITE OF.”
God loves us in spite of our sins, our coldness, our willfulness, our selfishness etc, and is not dependent upon or swayed by the variables and deficiencies of the human condition. If He was, we would be doomed. That is why everyone who does not have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ should never be married, and never be married by Christian pastors. If they don’t give evidence of having experienced the miracle of God’s agape in Christ, and if they cannot articulate the substance of agape as their own, we must not approve their marriage for we are setting them up for certain failure.
It all reminds me of the “Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue” poems that abound. Here are just a few:
ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, MOST MEN ARE SLIME
EXCEPT FOR YOU.”
“ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, YOU BETTER NOT WORK
OVERTIME OR I WILL DIVORCE YOU.”
“ROSES ARE RED, CARNATIONS ARE PINK, I’LL LOVE YOU
ALWAYS IF YOUR FEET DON’T STINK.”
“ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, AND IF YOU DON’T STAY
SLIM I’M GONNA GET RID OF YOU.”
Listen, when it comes to love and choosing a spouse, don’t touch any of the above with a hundred foot pole. But rather:
“ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, AND BECAUSE OF MY
AGAPE-LOVE, I AM FOREVER STUCK ON YOU.” Amen!