Are You Really In Love?
Text: Ephesians 5:21-32
by Robert J. Young

So many full of hurt, anger, resentment. So many focused on past failures. Memory an essential part of our human nature

I. Love Is a Choice.
But we are creatures of choice. Can decide what we think about, dwell upon. Can choose our focus. Can choose to forget. Phil. 3:12. We ourselves have been the burden to another--critical words, insensitivity, hurtful things. We have made bad choices, and they seemed so good at the time. Is there any deliverance from poor choices past?
Application especially important in realm of marriage, love, dating, courtship. Can we understand one another? I believe marriages can be rescued from brink of divorce when couples make the choice to love.
This kind of love doesn't erase the past, but it does make the future different. We can choose active expressions of love. This kind of love is in contrast with the "in love" experience so glorified in our society, culture, media. The "in love" experience temporarily meets one's emotional need for love. We feel someone admires and appreciates us. We are #1 in the eyes of another, another is willing to devote time and energy exclusively for our relationship. We are able to conquer the world, nothing is impossible, the experience is euphoric. For many people in a world of deficient family relationships, this is the first time they have ever felt this way.
This "in love" experience, however, is not the basis of an ongoing love relationship. Rather, the kind of love that is a choice, the biblical agape love, is based in actions as well as feelings. At times it is based in actions without feelings. We must distinguish between love as a feeling and love as an action. If we claim feelings we do not have, that is hypocritical. But if we express acts of love, that is our choice. It is a choice we can make, and most people do make every day. It is the choice of parents to children, children to aging parents, it is the choice to get involved when it is easier to remain aloof.
This kind of love is based in our own sense of self-worth. If agape love, the choice to love, is based in the lover and not in the one loved, it is essential that I have an intact sense of self- worth if I cam to love generously and effectively. As Jesus suggests, I cannot hate myself and love others. We love others as we love ourselves. Thus, this kind of chosen love requires that we over come mixed and negative messages from our past. It requires that we quit sending such messages to ourselves. We must renew self-esteem, because we are loved by God.
If someone loves me, I must have worth, significance. In the context of marriage, if I do not feel loved, the differences that surface are magnified.

II. Love is unconditional.
Can you love someone you hate? This question is a real question from a real situation. Can you hear the question? Such is based in hurt, helplessness, problems. Anger held inside becomes hate.
Many couples have never learned unconditional love. We continue to be demanding and condemning, and thus destroy marriages. The choice to love, and even more the choice to love without conditions is usually made in the midst of a negative situation. We come face to face with the fact that the emotional high on which we began is not sufficient to sustain the relationship.
This is a time for openness, for learning and growing. But many couples respond in just the opposite way. Here the words of Jesus are helpful again, Luke 6:27-28, 31-32. Then add Luke 6:38.
Does the profound challenge of these words strike you? Could these ancient principles of loving the unlovely change our lives and home and marriages?

III. Love must be communicated.
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book entitled The Five Love Languages. I want to suggest that our text has five avenues for love that are very similar to Dr. Chapman's. His five languages are affirmation, time, gifts, service, and touch. Listen to the word of God in some intriguing parallels.

Paul concludes our text by observing that this is not only about love in the context of a man and woman committed to one another in marriage. This is also about Christ and the church.
Some days we do not feel like loving Christ, but love is a choice. Some days life buffets us and we may tend to blame God, but love continues despite the conditions. Some days, we may wonder about our feelings toward God, but we can continue to act in loving ways.
We can submit, commit, give self, serve, and seek continuing connection with God. We can pray, we can read the Bible. We can listen, we can communicate.

Life is not perfect--spiritually or maritally. But the Bible provides help and direction.

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Last updated February 26, 2001.