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My husband and I went through our wedding vows last week. Although many wonder why we would do that, we have a reason. We go through our vows (and if you know us, you know our vows are pretty extensive and thorough) at least twice a year for two main reasons. First, we honestly assess how well we are keeping our vows to one another and receive feedback from each other on what we are and are not doing well. Second, when we know the areas that we are falling short in, we have a basic understanding of what we need to go to God in prayer about. Thus, we can seek God for growth and grace in very specific areas. But moving along…the last line in both of our vows is this: I will passionately love you always and never divorce you.

Now, to vow that you will “passionately love” someone always is pretty serious (about as serious as vowing never to divorce that person). But I feel like we naturally expect love to ebb and flow as a relationship matures. For example, people who haven’t been together too long are normally very expressive, giddy, can’t help but let everyone know that they love one another (shout out to my brother-in-law…..LOL)! But, as time and life progresses, the love somehow “matures” and becomes expressively quieter a lot of times. But then, there are some people who can keep up the youthfulness of their love no matter how long the relationship lasts. So, whatever the case, the expression of love can look different for a lot of people.

But, going back to the “passionately love you always”…in my reflection, I lingered for a long while on the meaning of these words. When I first wrote them, I knew what I had in mind, but as we have grown as a couple and come into a deeper relationship with God, my thoughts and views have been challenged and changed. So I will ask you to ponder over this question: How would you define being in love with someone?

Now, while you are thinking and formulating your response, I want to share with you where I have been challenged in this. My husband and I have also been studying the Apostle John and his writings recently. So, we have studied our way through the gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John, and we are now starting Revelation. In his writings, John spoke on different occasions about love, and in his gospel, we have an extremely clear definition of love from Christ.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:9-13

 From this short passage, we now know the two things that define love according to God:

  1. You keep (or obey) God’s commandments.
  2. You lay (or are willing to) down your life for another

And also from this passage, you have two promises from Christ surrounding this love. If you keep (or obey) God’s commandments, then:

  1. The joy of Christ will be in you.
  2. Your joy will be full.

Now, you can continue to take your time and think on that, but I want to move along to where my challenge is. John (in his first epistle) gives the test of knowing whether or not someone is actually a child of God in several passages:

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” – 1 John 3:10-11

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8 

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God also loves his brother.” – 1 John 4:20-21

So, attempting to put this altogether for you now, I was challenged in our studying because the standard of love from God is clearly obvious and set.  The standard (the basic qualifications) of loving someone else is to lay down your life for them……that is, how Christ has loved us. This means that if I do not meet that standard of love for any of my brothers and sisters in Christ, then I do not love them. In other words: If there is one person within the body of Christ that I am not willing to lay down my life for, then I truly do not love them, and nor do I love God.

So, it took me a while to wrestle through that truth, but it has resulted in me diligently going to God to grow me up in this area and cause me to love the way He has loved me.  But how does this relate to my marriage relationship with my husband?

Well, going through the vows, I realized that if I determine myself to “passionately love” my husband by my willingness to always die for him, then I have just met the basic standard of love according to God. It is the same standard that I must love all of my brothers and sisters in Christ. That meant that my love for him was not special or different according to that definition. So, doing some more thinking, I realized that the passion is shown in my zeal and diligence, and the love is shown in my obeying the commands of God. So for me to “passionately love him always” means that I must zealously and diligently seek to obey God’s commands in my marriage relationship every day.

Thus, to learn about God’s commandments regarding your marriage relationship, you have to refer to different passages like Ephesians 5, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3, and so on, and ladies I’ll let you know, most of those passages speak on submitting to your husband (but you can read them for yourself).

But in my self-assessment, I originally was saddened by the fact that I’m not “head over heels” falling out all over the place in love with my husband all the time. But the reality is, I honestly won’t be in that emotional state at every point in our marriage. However, I did realize that I have been very diligent in making sure that I consistently obey God and His commandments regarding our marriage relationship, and in that, I am passionately loving him always by God’s grace every day. And I was even more blessed to hear that my husband has the same view I do and is passionately loving me always too.

So, I hope this post makes you think a bit longer on being in love, loving your spouse, and all of that. Honestly, I found great consolation in sticking to the truth of God’s word, and I also continue to receive both of the promises that Christ gave for obeying God’s commandments: I have His joy in me, and my joy is forever full in my life and especially in my marriage.