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God’s Vision for True Love and Lasting Relationships

By: Kristen Clark

I’ll admit it…the first thing that caught my eye about Zack wasn’t his godly character. It was his tan skin and muscles. He was just so stinkin’ cute (and still is). My stomach got butterflies. My hands got sweaty. My mind started dreaming. 

So let me ask you this: Was I experiencing true love at first sight? Did cupid hit me with one of his arrows? Was I “in love?” 

Well…not exactly. My feelings for Zack were very real, but they weren’t necessarily signs of true love. 

What I was experiencing at that moment was a physical and sexual attraction to Zack. That attraction could lead me towards true love (and it did eventually), but in and of itself physical attraction isn’t the primary ingredient for true and lasting love. Romantic love is wonderful in the right context, but it’s not the type of love that will sustain a marriage for decades on end. 

If we want a marriage that thrives beyond the honeymoon phase, we need a better vision for what true love looks like. 

Thanks to Hollywood and our selfish hearts, most modern romantic relationships and marriages are built upon the belief that true love should always create happy feelings. That romance should always be at the center of every interaction. That sexual attraction should be the primary fuel for keeping your marriage alive. But if this is true, why are so many “hot celebrity marriages” fizzling out after a year or two? 

If we, as Christian women, want better results for our romantic relationships, we have to get to the root of what genuine, true love is. We have to build our romances on God’s vision for true love and lasting relationships.

When we open up God’s Word, we will quickly see that love defined by God is the polar opposite of most everything we see in our secular society. It also goes against every fiber of our being.

Love defined by God runs completely contrary to our self-centered hearts.

In the Bible, there are actually 3 different Greek words to describe love. We can use these Greek words to help us determine which type of love we’re building our relationships on. 

  1. Eros (sexual and romantic love)
  2. Phileo (friendship love)
  3. Agape (unconditional, self-sacrificing love)

A lasting and vibrant marriage needs all three types of love to thrive. However, most of us place the largest amount of weight on the first one. Eros. We try to build our relationship n the foundation of romance and sexual attraction. But that doesn’t work long term.

God has a better plan. If you were able to read your Bible in Greek, you would see that the word, agape is mentioned 259 times.

This should clue us in on how important this type of love is.

When we break down the original meaning of the word, agape, its definition is earth-shattering. “The essence of agape love is self-sacrifice.” Did you catch that last part? The essence of agape love is self-sacrifice. This type of love isn’t built on sexual attraction, feelings, or romance — it’s built on choosing to serve someone else unconditionally.

Self-sacrifice.

God defined love isn’t built on romance alone but on a foundation of serving and sacrificing for another person. True love is an action, not an emotional feeling. Self-sacrifice is the action that best displays true biblical love. 

Here’s a powerful story from Love Defined that illustrates this type of agape love:

“I heard the story of a couple who had been married for over seventy years. As they entered their early nineties, the wife began to lose her sight. By the time her ninety-third birthday rolled around, she was completely blind.

Knowing how scary and hard this was for his wife, the husband stayed by her side every hour. He gently talked with her, prayed with her, sang her songs, cooked her meals, and combed her brittle hair. Wrapping his wrinkled hands around hers, he would softly whisper, ‘I love you more than life itself.’ Unable to look back at him, she would smile and say, ‘And I love you even more than that.’

Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. He stayed by her side. He served her. He loved her. His unselfish love was fueled by his deeper understanding of God’s faithful love to him.

Having experienced God’s sacrificial love for him for over ninety years, this older gentleman was compelled to love his wife in the same way.

One day the man’s grandson was visiting and asked, ‘Grandpa, don’t you get tired of just sitting with Grandma all day?’

Staring off into the distance, the grandpa paused for a moment then slowly said, ‘Son, she’s been faithfully by my side for the past seventy years, showing me the sacrificial love of Christ. Now it’s my turn to be faithfully by hers.’”

True love. That’s it. Right there.

If we, as Christian women, want to experience vibrant marriages that last until the very end, we must pursue this type of self-sacrificing love. We can’t build our relationships on eros love alone and expect it to last.

We need something more powerful.

When we look at the life of Jesus on this earth, we see a beautiful demonstration of agape love at work. His like was the ultimate example of sacrificial love and He calls us to love others in the same way.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love [agape], as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV).

Agape love is God’s solution to vibrant, lasting relationships.

That’s God good design for us. In my marriage with Zack, agape love is what has sustained us for the past 7 years. I still think Zack is really handsome (and sometimes I still get butterflies), but that’s not what keeps us going. Choosing to love and cherish one another selflessly has been the key. You can read more about our love story here. 

If you want to discover more about God’s vision for true love and lasting relationships, grab a copy of our brand new book, Love Defined. Inside this book, we unpack a radically better and refreshingly biblical approach to navigating your love life. Covering topics such as true love, purposeful relationships, sex, boundaries, and singleness, this book will take you on a journey to discovering God’s good and original design for romance!

Let’s chat below!

First, I have a question for my single sisters out there! Please share your thoughts with me below: In what ways has our culture’s “fireworks version” of true love influenced your personal view of love?

Now I have two questions for my married sisters! In what ways have you put true (sacrificial) love into action in your marriage? What advice do you have for single girls on how they can practice showing agape love now?

Photo Credit 

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  • Heather

    I know as a single girl, the “fireworks version” of true love has in the past given me quite high expectations, and rather unreasonable ones at that. And then you just come away feeling disappointed when it doesn’t happen that way. But I know all too well that fireworks fizzle out soon or later…and so a “fireworks version” of true love isn’t dependable.

  • Thank you for the post! I needed it right now…

  • Emo Gay Atheist

    Well, by reading the title, I can assume that, from your point of view, God’s vision for true love and a lasting relationship has to be only between a cis man and a cis woman. I’m sure it also requires the woman to be incredibly submissive to both the man as well as God, because, of course, you are so close-minded that there is no other type of love.

    • Corrah Matthews

      Hi,

      This is a Christian blog – so yes, you would be correct in assuming that we believe “God’s vision for true love and a lasting relationship has to be only between a cis man and a cis woman”. We are not denying that other people believe otherwise – but this is our opinion. That does not mean, that we deny others have these feelings. We are not called upon to hate others who disagree with our religious teachings. We are called to love them. To, love the sinner, not the sin.

      Submission to God is an aspect of our religion – and thus, I cannot understand why you are criticising it. If your username rings true in life – than you should have no issues with others choosing to believe in a higher power, just because you do not.

      It was also stated nowhere in this article, that “the woman be incredibly submissive to … the man”.
      To be “incredibly submissive” on one side of an imperfect human relationship – often ends up abusive – and by no means is that condoned, let alone encouraged.
      A few years ago, Pastor Mark Driscoll gave a sermon, in which he explained different types of relationships – he explained that in order to have a happy relationship, two people must be willing to give. If one gives, and one takes – that is abusive. If two take, and no one gives, that is unhappy.
      The Bible proclaims submission for women in marriage, as a call to respect your husband as the head of the household. It is not a matter of master and servant, but instead more of a Captain and a Vice-Captain.
      As Christians, we are called to serve and to love. As Christian women, we are not called to be door-mats, or to accept abusive situations, that being “incredibly submissive” can lead to.
      We are not called to be passive; but rather passionate followers of Christ.

      The Bible gives many examples of women for us to follow – they are human, and they have faults, and they make mistakes, like us – but they are not doormats. From Esther, to Ruth, to Hannah, to Mary, to the Queen of Sheba. We are never called to be doormats. We are called to love, to learn, to worship God, to serve others, and so much more.
      In marriage, it is similar. We are called to support our husbands – we do not always have to agree. We do not have to give up our own opinions, or our own life. We have to be there for them. Madeline Merlo’s song ‘War Paint’, explains this quite well I think. Both husband and wife are called to give to each other – the husband is simply called to be the representative head of the family. As a biblical husband, they are not called to abuse, mistreat, or down-tread their wives. They are called to love, and support, and worship with their wives.

      Kristen writes two articles on this topic – and makes a very good comment that “God never calls a husband to
      force submission upon his wife, but rather, its something the wife chooses to do out of honor for God”.

      Hopefully this sheds some light on the issue for you.
      God bless,
      Corrah

      • Melissa

        So very well said, Corrah!

  • Casey Halbert

    As a singe gal, I used to subscribe to the lie that feelings were everything, everything, everything! I believed that there had to be a personal, selfish satisfaction in the relationship. And even if I never said it aloud, I know I was thinking it down under. I used to believe that relationships were so easy and that I would just do this or that, and it would all fall into place. Now I know: While physical attraction is important to a degree, it is not nearly as important as the love that God has defined for us.

  • Saira Esther Thomas

    “Feelings” is the basic thing I find out when I first discovered myself having love for someone. It lasted only a four days. That’s when I realized feelings are short tempered action of true love. So, I tried what’s true love is, because I feel infatuated, and feel crush and all the basic little elements of love made me struggled. It’s an eye opening truth when I start digging into the truth of romance, true love on the basis of god’s word. Not only girl defined ministry, other Christian you tubers were also helpful in helping to me find out what sort of things are important in a relationship. The primary channel that helped after is, girl defined ministry. From my experience, I can never stand up for culture defined person. I’m unique to myself, that god himself revealed to me through the word of god, that I should stand up for him. So, I value that god’s vision of true love is acceptable and his word will stay remain even when the world and all that’s within it pass away.

  • Malgorzata Kleczkowska

    So Kristen, could you please explain how much should the physical attraction play a part? You said it led you to true love- but how important is it? Is it wrong? Can it start off attraction, in a way, that that is when a guy actually starts thinking that he might want to marry this woman, and then they look at whether they would really be compatible? I’d love to see an article on that – I know that just because I don’t feel sxual attraction to a guy, I shouldn’t reject him totally at once if he asks me , and that just because I am attrcated doesn’t mean I should feed it and base my decisions on it. Thanks!

  • Bella

    Thank you for this! It was very helpful because I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

  • GracieVv

    As a single teen girl, society has filled my head with many wrong ideas of love and relationships and it has caused a lot of confusion. About a year ago I was talking to this guy and all he seemed to care about was the eros love. The more I looked around it seemed like just about every guy only cared about the physical side of relationships and it was really discouraging because I knew there had to be more to love than just the physical things. I know that’s a big part of a relationship but that’s not all that goes into it. Thank you for this post. It reminded to not give up on praying for a pure and lasting relationship because they do still exist.

  • Erika

    Thanks for posting so much!
    Hey, I know you girls have been posting a lot about love and relationships recently because of your new book, but can you do some posts for younger girls who are not yet into all that, like maybe makeup, peer pressure, all the new trends that are hard not to follow but not always right, media, songs, and good friendships? I would love to see some more of that, and thanks!

    • bethany pottinger

      I would encourage you to check the archives they have multiple articles on the topics that you have mentioned.

      • Erika

        Okay I will, thanks @bethanypottinger:disqus!

  • Cara

    I have a friend who is constantly jumping through relationships (like most teenagers do), but I can tell he struggles with himself. His mother is in her 3d marriage and his father is currently in a loveless marriage. During a conversation I asked him what he thinks the point of a relationship is, he answered, “To have fun or pleasure” and the added that he doesn’t believe love exist.
    How can I show him that love does exist, that he is loved? I can’t tell him that love is like how God loves him, as his father doesn’t really love him and he has no experience of fatherly love.
    I really worry for him.

    • Ruth Jackson

      I’m sorry no one has responded to you yet. While I’ve never had a friend (that I know of) who has been through something like this, I have a few ideas. How can you show him that love exists? One, be a real friend. Show him God’s love through you. Let God’s light shine through you. Be there for him. Show him compassion. A long time ago, I had a friend who was suicidal and he really needed love. So I did everything I possibly could to show him that life was worth living. We talked everyday. I sent him a care package with his favorite things as well as asked friends to write verses and notes to him so that he felt loved. I’ve noticed through my own struggles, when someone whether it’s a long-time friend or a stranger shows me love, my depression lessens and I feel free. Two, pray and ask God to show you ways to help him. Three, ask his other friends either to do something with you or give you ideas. Does he have siblings? Ask them what they think might help. My friend’s sister was a wealth of information. She also helped coordinate a surprise visit. He had no idea I was coming. Being an example of love will help him realize for himself what real love looks like and portray it in his own life. Hope that helps.

  • Leslie Quintana

    I was totally blind because Hollywood sells the lindo oficina LOVE that is not enough. How refreshing is to know the appropiate way to incorporate true LOVE in our lifes. Girls! It would be a blessing to have an article about this agape LOVE in our daily family Life. God bless you Girls!


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