Foundations of Romantic Love

Faith is the foundation of romantic love because husbands and wives have a religious obligation to love one another.  In addition, the application of biblical teaching to daily living makes people more loveable.  For example, if we live by the Spirit, we will not engage in behaviors that make romantic love more difficult.  Examples are sexual immorality, jealousy, fits of rage, drunkenness, and selfish ambition  (Galatians 5:16-21).  In contrast, there are Christian attitudes and behaviors that strengthen marriage.  Examples are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (vs. 22-23).  Living the Christian life encourages and sustains romantic love, which is why faith should be the foundation of all romantic relationships before and after marriage.

The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 18:19) is seen by Jesus as a summary of the Law of Moses.  Jesus says this is one of two commandments on which all of the law and the prophets hang (Matthew 22:37-40).  According to Jesus, love for one another is a characteristic of discipleship.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  The kind of love that Jesus commands for the church is not romantic love, but a love that is unselfish and holds others in high regard.  Romantic love includes this, but it also involves a spiritual, emotional, and sexual dimension that is focused on only one person.

It is not optional whether married people are to love each other.  On two occasions, Paul commands husbands to love their wives (Colossians 3:19; Ephesians 5:25).  He says husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves (v. 28).  It can be safely assumed that what husbands are required to do, wives should do as well.  In addition to the commands to love your spouse, there are also rules against separation.  Paul said, “A wife must not separate from her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:10) and “A husband must not divorce his wife” (v. 11).  He even discourages abstaining from sex within marriage.  “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (vs. 5-6).

Marriage implies that “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  As noted earlier, Paul says that to become one flesh is to have sex with someone (1 Corinthians 6:16).  Jesus says it also means the marriage bond should not be broken.  “So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). 

Some refer to Jesus statement as the one flesh law.  Many think Jesus is introducing something new here, but he is actually stating the law of the Old Testament.  The Pharisees’ question about the divorce certificate in verse 4 arose from a misapplication of Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  God is not giving men moral permission to divorce their wives, but is regulating the sinful practice of divorce, as Jesus says, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard” (Matthew 19:8). 

Moses’ law is not a moral concession, as is often argued, but a civil regulation on an already existing sinful practice.  Note that Jesus says their “hearts were hard.”  Although the Old Testament contains numerous examples of the violation of the one flesh law, God affirms this principle again at the end of the Old Testament when he says through the prophet Malachi, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). 

Violations of the one flesh law began early in the Bible with a man named Lamech who married two women (Genesis 4:19).  Other examples are when Abraham and Sarah decided to have a child through Hagar (Genesis 16:1-2) and again when David married several women (1 Samuel 25:43; 2 Samuel 11:27). 

Just because God does not specifically condemn something at the time it occurs does not mean it is approved.  It is not possible to know all of the ways in which these people faced the consequences of their actions, and we should not use the silence of Scripture or the failings of others as a justification for sin today.

J B Myers

jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:

Faith and Addiction

Elders and Deacons

Life Choices 

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