I don’t bake much (okay, not at all), but I know that it takes all the essential ingredients to pull off a recipe. To bake a cake, for example, you’re going to need eggs, butter, flour, and some sugar at a minimum. Skip one of those ingredients and when it comes out of the oven you’ll have a special treat for the dog – not a cake.
The same is true when it comes to love, especially marital love. If you’re like me and the bride of my youth, you have found that this isn’t a simple recipe. Twenty-four years in, and we are still working on it. Sometimes we get it right, but all too often, we’re an absolute disaster.
Bible scholars tell us that there are several different layers, or expressions of love, and it takes a generous measure of each of them for a marriage to rise and thrive.
Do you remember them? If not, no worries. Here’s a quick review:
Family love. The Greek word is Philadelphia. (See Hebrews 13:1). It has to do with the love that we have for one another in the body of Christ, a love that expresses itself in simple kindness, affection, and support. Sometimes husbands and wives overlook the fact that they are related to one another in Christ. We are family on more than one level, so we should treat each other accordingly.
Erotic love. Believe it or not, it’s in the Bible. Think of eros, or romantic love, as the “sugar” in the recipe of marital love between a man and a woman. The Song of Solomon goes into explicit detail on the passion expressed between two lovers. Here’s a small sample, a sweet love note passed from the bride to the groom in chapter one:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine; -Song of Solomon 1:2
You see, there’s no shame in the erotic dimension of love in marriage. By God’s design, it is something to be nurtured, enjoyed, and protected. Where there is mutual trust and commitment between a man and woman, romantic love is what gives the cake its delightful taste.
Agape love. This is the substance part. If erotic love is what gives the recipe taste, it is agape love that gives it form and texture. It may not appear to be very sexy, but boy, is agape love necessary to make the relationship work. It is agape love that compels a husband and wife to make the hard choice to actively love the other person, even when they don’t deserve it, even when they’re acting like a total…
This is what Paul is describing in I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, a passage that more than likely was (or will be) read at your wedding.
Love [agape] is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This is what real love is, what it does. and what it doesn’t do. It was this kind of love that moved God to come after us, even when we weren’t on speaking terms. Make no mistake, it was agape love that saved us. And agape love is also what ultimately saves relationships, because agape love is less about words and feelings and more about making the choice to love like God loves – patiently, unconditionally, sacrificially.
but God shows his love [agape] for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8
Sugar is great, but you can’t live on it. At some point, you will need some substance. And so will your marriage.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.