TLP 134: What Is Romantic Love?
What does the Bible have to say about sex in marriage? Today AMBrewster helps Christian couples discover the biblical way to approach romance in the marriage.
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Before we start today, friends, I want to share a prayer request.
A friend of Truth.Love.Parent. shared that one of our listeners is having struggles at home. Will you please take a moment to pray for them. You don’t have to know who they are, you don’t need to know what the situation is — just pray.
No doubt, many of our listeners are having family struggles, and if we’re truly going to be a community of believers who love God and love others, we need to pray for each other.
As an online community, ours cannot be as vital and interactive as a local community. But one of the key things we can do is encourage each other and pray for each other.
If this is the kind of online community of which you’d like to be a part, I encourage you to go to TruthLoveParent.com and become a part of The TLP Family. When you sign up on TLP’s website, you’ll receive a code that will give you access to our closed Facebook group.
If nothing else, let’s remember to pray for the other TLP-ers who need God’s Truth and love in their life.
And speaking of love, let’s talk about romance.
If this is your first time with us, we just finished up a series called “The Three Family Loves.” And during that series I referenced the fact that many people think that romance and attraction are synonymous with love.
I also talked about the fact that many people believe the Greek word eros typifies the passionate love between husband and wife. But that’s not accurate.
So, I encourage you to listen to that series if you haven’t heard it already. In fact, I encourage you to start at episode 126 which started our month-long study in love and hate.
So, let’s see what the Bible has to say about romance, from which of the Three Family Loves it flows, and how we can develop it in our relationships.
Probably the most “romantic” book in the Bible is the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs.
The whole book is a poem that switches back and forth between three or so speakers. There’s Solomon, his bride, and an unnamed group of people.
Most of the book consists of Solomon and his love professing their love for each other and their language is descriptive to say the least. Some people have joked that parents have walked in on their sons reading the Song of Solomon and yelled, “What are you doing?! Put away that garbage!”
Serious scholars have been all over the spectrum while trying to explain the spiritual significance of the book. Some of said it’s no more than a love poem expressing the beautiful love between husband and wife, and others have said it’s a picture of Christ and His bride, the church.
My point today is not to lend a scholarly machete to the Song of Solomon’s passionate thicket. I merely wanted to allude to the book and observe that passionate romance between a man and a wife is a godly and beautiful thing.
But is it love?
One of the things that annoys me to no end are the phrases “making love” and “the act of love.” Those phrases are no more biblical than “The Five Love Languages.”
Nowhere in the entire Bible is the word “love” used to describe sex.
We have to acknowledge the fact that it’s the world who has incorrectly synthesized love and sex.
Here are the easiest of arguments against that idea:
With that said, let’s turn our gaze to the one New Testament passage that says the most about Christ-honoring sex.
In I Corinthians 7:1-5 we read, "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
We need to start by observing that this chapter was not written to give sex tips to couples. It was written on the heels of a lengthy passage where Paul commands everyone to flee sexual immorality. And then he starts this section by referencing a previous letter he wrote to the Corinthians. In that letter he made the observation that, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” No doubt the Corinthians wrote back and wanted some clarification. Unfortunately, their congregation was a little too obsessed with sex. They had even become arrogant over the fact that there was a man in their congregation that was having sex with his step-mom.
So, Paul has to clarify that abstinence is good. In fact, later in the chapter he says, “I wish that all were as I myself am,” referring to his being unmarried. And then he proceeds to give reasons why being single can be a greater blessing.
So, amidst his clarification about not touching a woman, Paul concedes that if you’re having a difficult time fighting the temptation to sexual immorality, then it’s better to get married.
Now, the verses that follow continue Paul’s thesis concerning sexual immorality and how to flee from it.
In chapter 6 he lays the foundation for how to escape the temptation, in chapter seven he says, if the temptation seems too great, get married, but then he gets more specific, and if you’re married — since we all know you’re still going to face sexual temptation — this is one good way to avoid that temptation.
He says, “3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
Now, doesn’t that sound romantic? He’s referring to sex by talking about rights and authority.
Of course, before you think I’m downing sex and all that — I’m totally not. But the discussion for today is not about good sex habits. If it were, we’d spend some more time in this chapter and mine the deep Truths, but for now I just want to make the observation that this passage is anything but romantic.
So, Paul continues, “5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
So, if you plan to stop having sex, Paul refers to that as depriving your spouse, and he says that you shouldn’t do that unless you have an agreement for a spiritual reason, and he ties it all up by circling back to the theme he had before — how to escape temptation because of your lack of self-control.
And that’s it.
The only times the Bible commands sex is for reproduction and to stave off temptation. Now, I’m NOT saying . . . let me say that again . . . I’m NOT saying that sex is bad or low or base or anything like that.
Sex is a fantastic thing. It’s beautiful. It was designed by God for a number of very specific and deeply spiritual purposes, including the shared enjoyment of husband and wife.
I wrote this while I was on a snowshoe retreat with the students from Victory Academy. I’ll tell you the same thing I told them. People need to stop scaring kids away from sex. Sex was created by God and it is good within a Christ-honoring marriage. It’s only when sexuality is experienced outside of marriage that it’s a sin.
Also, it’s my personal belief that since there’s no marriage or sex in heaven, I can only imagine that an orgasm is a tiny taste of what it will be like to be in God’s presence for all eternity.
That’s not Bible, that’s just my own opinion.
So, my only point in all of this is to help us realize that love is so much bigger than sex. Romance is only a tiny part of the gigantic, multi-faceted diamond that is love. And, like Satan is so want to do, he’s taken one of the smallest parts of the human experience and made it the most important thing in order to distract from what God really has for us.
So, here’s Big Idea Number One: True Love is just that . . . it’s love. It’s everything we spent the past two episodes discussing.
Big Idea Number Two: sex is just one way we express our True Love in marriage. Sex must not flow from eros — that would be a selfish act. That would be sin. Sex won’t flow from storgē, and it won’t flow from phileō.
Sex must be an agape act.
When we talk about love, I tell my students at Victory Academy that I love them just as much as I love my own kids. And I tell them that I love them just as much as I love my own wife.
Now, they have a very difficult time believing that, but once we define love biblically, it all makes sense. I want God’s best for each of them to the same degree I want God’s best for the others.
How terrible would I have to be to not want God’s best for one of my students?
But within the context of different relationships, God’s best looks different.
It’s in God’s best interest that I refrain from doing any sexual with everyone in my life save my wife. That’s in God’s best interest for me and them. That’s True Love with my students and my kids and my friends and my eight billion strangers.
But it is in God’s best interest for me and my wife that I do have sex with her. That’s True Love with my wife.
It has nothing to do with loving my wife more or loving my wife differently. I’m loving my wife and my kids and my students the same way . . . I’m working toward God’s greatest good and their best interest.
And, my friends, this isn’t semantics. It’s the way it is.
Every romantic and sexual gesture between my wife and me should be motivated by True Agape Love.
And that shouldn’t make it any less romantic! It fact, it should make it more romantic. And you know this to be true. Every Christ-honoring man and woman out there knows that — more often than not — you feel the most sexually attracted to your spouse after they just did something really good. Ladies, he changed the baby without being asked.
Let me give you a personal one. We were at the chiropractor and when we came out I noticed that his front sidewalk was covered in snow. I love my chiropractor, so I grabbed the shovel that was by their front door, and I shoveled the walk. I swear, if my kids hadn’t been there, I think my wife would have jumped me there in the van!
You know what I’m talking about. True Love produces the most passionate and beautiful sexuality in the whole world! It’s infinitely better than eros could produce because it’s being enjoyed the way God designed it be enjoyed.
Okay, so Big Idea Number One is that True Love is love . . . not romance and sex. Big Idea Number Two is that romance and sexuality is just one way we express our True Love to our spouses.
And here’s our last Big Idea: how can we cultivate the right kind of sexuality and romance with our spouses?
1. Your romance must be agape and not eros. It must be completely selfless. Guys, she has authority over your body. Ladies, he has authority over your body.
It has nothing to do with you not being in the mood. “Not being in the mood” is code for “I’m a selfish pig and refuse to lovingly sacrifice for you right now.” But just like everything else in love . . . it’s not about you.
And that goes for the other side too. If you notice your spouse is not feeling well, exhausted, out of sorts, whatever, don’t selfishly throw yourself on them. Be loving. It shouldn’t be a situation where the one in the mood is always having to ask, it should be where the other one is lovingly offering.
2. Your romance must be motivated by the glory of God. “Whether you eat or drink or have sex with your spouse, do all to the glory of God.”
Your romance won’t be an outflow of True Love unless it’s selfless. And — like we’ve seen in previous episodes — True Agape Love is grounded in God’s glory.
Now, again, I feel like I’m seeing some rolling eyes. For some reason, people think that having sex to the glory of God strips the sex of its fun or enjoyment. Yeah — let’s be honest — I can see that if it’s sinful sex.
It’s just like anything else we do for God. Unsaved people who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil won’t like living for God. But if you claim to be a Christian, don’t let yourself think that sex to the glory of God is somehow subpar. That’s impossible! There is nothing grander, more awesome, or more enjoyable than living for God!!!!
And that needs to apply to our sex as well.
If we stop right there, with just those two observations. If you were able to live those out, let me promise you this:
“Now wait, Aaron, that’s a pretty big claim!”
Do you think the two of you will only exercise Christ-honoring love in bed and nowhere else in your relationship?
Humans and dogs have a lot in common. Experienced dog trainers have said that if you can control a dog in its eating and reproducing, you can control the dog at any other time. To have a dog submit to you instead of submitting to its two strongest natural drives is amazing.
And the same is true with humans. If we could actually glorify God in our eating, drinking, and sex, we’d be doing it during every other area of our lives as well.
So, back to my claim. If you and your spouse could work so that your romance is simply an outworking or your True Biblical Love for each other, your marriage will survive.
Alright, in conclusion, I want to make a final observation about romance outside of marriage.
Please stop encouraging romance among children. They shouldn’t be thinking romantically!
Should they be loving each other? Yes! But they don’t need to be thinking about hugging and kissing and holding hands and cuddling and the eros, fake plastic, heart-shaped “love” Satan’s trying to use to seduce your children into idolatry.
“But, Aaron, at some point they’re going to want to get married, and romance will be important.”
NO, IT WON’T!
These are my closing thoughts, so though I’ll explain myself, it will be brief. So, I encourage you to listen to episode 30, “Teens and Dating: what God has to say about their crush” for a deeper understanding of these principles.
Here’s my point:
Encourage your children to do what’s in God’s best interest for everyone. And once they’re old enough, encourage them to do what’s in the best interest of the individual in whom they’re interested — AKA: the person they believe may make a Christ-honoring spouse.
Within that context, giving flowers may be in God’s best interest for that person. A long walk by the ocean may be as well. But so will abstaining from sexual immorality of every kind.
If your kids have to sexually engage with someone in eros in order to woo them into marriage, do you really think their relationship will be built on True Love?
Again, episode 30, “Teens and Dating: what God has to say about their crush” deals with the biblical data on this subject in much greater detail. Please listen to that episode, especially if your kids are at the “dating age.”
I know this may not be the type of episode you’d usually share on social media, but no doubt sex struggles are affecting nearly every couple you know. And the concepts on which we talked today will address nearly every general, sex-related issue in a marriage.
So, with that said, you may want to share it anyway.
And speaking of social media, you should follow and like us on Facebook and Twitter! We’re very active on those platforms. We’re also on Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, but we’re waiting to invest in those platforms until TeamTLP grows a little more.
If you love Pinterest and Instagram and would be interested in seeing what it would take to join TeamTLP, you can click on the Community tab at TruthLoveParent.com, click on “Join TeamTLP,” and find out!
And, as always, I’ve worked up some episode notes that may be helpful for you. You can find them linked below on our blog, Taking Back the Family.
The title of our next episode is, “Hosea Parenting | what to do when your kids break your heart.” Who was Hosea and how can his relationship with his adulterous wife inform your parenting? I hope you’ll join us next time to find out.
Also, I’d want to give a massive thank you to my wife, Johanna. She’s one of TLP’s Patrons. She totally believes in what we’re doing, and even though she’s a part of TeamTLP, she’s also a financial supporter.
“Wait, Aaron, I thought husbands and wives should have a joint bank account?”
Well, I agree with that, but my wife does own a business, and she specifically wanted to divert a portion of her income into Truth.Love.Parent. because she loves the Lord, loves families . . . and I’m pretty sure she loves me too.
If you, like Johanna, love TLP and would like support us, please click the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description below.
And, I’m sure — if no one else does — my wife will get a kick out of me choosing this episode in which to thank her for her support.
And if this episode leaves you wondering how this might work within your unique marriage, please contact us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
Yes, God cares about our sex lives too. And, yes, it can be better than you thought was possible. But — as always — it has to be done to glory of God.
And that requires a lot of love.
See you next time.
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