The Bible refers to a number of types of love. God is described as love and it is his love that enables human beings to love as well. Love of God refers to the deep devotion that each person is to have for the God who created him or her and who gave his life for their sins on the cross.
The love between close friends refers to the deep connection that people have for each other and the desire that each has to act for the benefit of the other. The Bible also speaks in some detail of romantic love. Though some people feel that romantic love is less holy or even impure because of the way that human society has degraded it and misused it, true romantic love is the kind of love between two people that God designed to describe the way in which he loves his people.
What does the Bible have to say about romantic love?
What does the Bible have to say about romantic love and how can this understanding help each individual to understand the way that God loves those who have given their lives to him? The Apostle Paul wrote a great deal about the issue of romantic love within the context of those who were followers of Jesus Christ and thus part of his church.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
The love that men are to have for their wives is to have the same kind of intensity that Christ has for his bride, the church. Christ is described as preparing the church in the same way that a bride was prepared to be received by her husband when he came for her to take her to live with him in his home. The love of Christ is shown in his continually working for the good of the church to make it the best that it can be. Biblical romantic love is marked by the desire to give up self in order to act for the best for the other person. In contrast to love which is rooted in lust in the base culture of the world, biblical romantic love is rooted in a desire to please the other person and to make the other’s life the best that it can be. The joy of such love is the pleasure the other receives from the action made by the lover. Such joy was described on more than one occasion by Jesus as he explained the love that he had for those who followed after him.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; belief also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
The heart of Jesus for his followers is the same heart that the follower of Christ is to show for his own beloved. The Jewish husband had no greater responsibility than to prepare a place for his bride. Though the marriage contract had been signed, the husband did not come to his bride to take her to be with him until the time that a place was ready for her. In doing so, the husband showed that he was a man of his word and that he could be trusted. Romantic love means nothing unless there is the foundation of truth in the relationship. The husband and wife must know that each speaks the truth and can be relied upon to do what he or she was promised. The marriage covenant is based upon the declaration by each party to commit to the other and to work for the best of the other. It is only in this way that the romantic love that each has for the other can find good soil and both man and woman can grow in a healthy relationship.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).
Paul’s words go back to the very origins of romantic love and marriage. Adam and Eve were the world’s first lovers and their love reflects God’s purpose for marriage, for romantic love, and for how such relationships make each partner better for having committed to one another and having entered into a deep relationship with each other.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18).
Romantic love is a response to the loneliness that comes from living without the companionship of another. In response to Adam’s loneliness, God created Eve as a suitable companion who would fill those places where Adam was empty. When one person meets another person who can fulfill those deepest needs then romantic feelings of love come to the surface and encourage the two people to come together. The lusts of the flesh encourage sexual intimacy as the primary response, but Biblical love is much richer and meets the needs that mere sexual intimacy can never fulfill. Romantic love is the process by which two people come together to become proper companions for one another and to meet each other’s needs. Such love requires a focus on the other and the needs of the other and involves trust that the other person has the same commitment. A successful Biblical marriage is one in which both partners commit fully to each other and put aside personal desires to meet the needs of the other. While romantic love is a feeling, it always demonstrates itself in self-giving actions.
“In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28).
The metaphor of two becoming one describes the way in which romantic love is to be lived out in the life of the believer. The same commitment that an individual has to make his or her life better is to be the same level of commitment that such a person has for his or her spouse. Because the marriage commitment brought on by romantic love makes two people one, each person is actually acting for personal benefit in loving the other. Two people becoming one is the ultimate result of the feelings of romantic love that bring them together. As a result, all other commitments other than the commitment to God become secondary. Pleasing one’s spouse becomes paramount because of the union of the two comings together.
Romantic love is a reflection of God’s love for his people and as two people live out that romantic love in marriage, the world sees and understands God’s love and is drawn to a God who can engender such love between two people.