“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” – Ephesians 4:2.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has often been hailed as the greatest love story ever told. Two young lovers, in their desire to be with one another against the wishes of their feuding families, ultimately take their own lives, each unwilling to endure the cold, hopeless wasteland of a life without the other.

While it has brought tears to many eyes, the problem is that the story takes place over four days. It is hard to believe they could really get to know each other in four days. They marry the day after they meet, and two days later they are willing to kill themselves over the loss of a person who wasn’t even in the picture five days ago. The lines about love in Romeo and Juliet are beautiful: “With love’s light wings did I o’er-perch these walls; for stony limits cannot hold love out,” for example. But did they really know what love is? Do we know what we are saying when we say, “but I love him/her?” 

The apostle Paul wrote a passage in a letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth that has come to be known as the “love chapter.” It provides an explanation of what true, godly love is at its core. Among other things, we are told: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7, NLT).

Does that sound like what Romeo and Juliet had? By the biblical definition, what they felt wasn’t love. It was something else. What many  people are calling love isn’t love. Our culture has confused love with infatuation and sex with love.  In every media, it views love as something we fall into. Sometimes unexpectantly. Sometimes accidentally. But Biblical love is a conscious choice one makes—an action, not an accident. And it is a choice that takes time and effort.

After we’ve taken the time to get to know the other person, to understand his or her values, personality and character as objectively as possible, to seek and consider God’s guidance as well as input from trusted friends and family members, and after we’ve come before God to commit ourselves to that person for the rest of our days, then there is love and a foundation for marriage. 

So important is true, godly love that Jesus emphasized it as the defining characteristic of Christians everywhere: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define love as it pertains to marriage? What does love look like on a daily basis?
  2. How would you rate love in your marriage? How can you improve the love in your marriage?
  3. Read 1 John 4:7-21: What do those verses mean in marriage or in other relationships?
  4. What would you say are the five most important elements of a marriage relationship?  If you had to rank these elements, where on the list would you place love? Sex? What is the reasoning behind your ranking?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you love better in your marriages/relationships.