I was watching a movie last night (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen). It was typical Hollywood fare (albeit set in Britain and the Middle East). One scene struck me; the main male protagonist of the movie was shown to be in a “loveless” marriage, with both husband and wife pursuing their own career paths. The scene was the final “fight” scene of the marriage. The wife was suspicious of one of the husband’s work colleagues (who happened to be the main female protagonist of the movie), the wife could see the husband liked this woman and asked a question “Do you love her?” The man did not answer the question, but the implication was that yes he really did love her. And if the answer, spoken or not, is that you love another person, then that in effect dissolves the cold loveless union that had previously existed, after all don’t we all deserve to be with the one we love?
This scene in effect cleared the way for the ensuing relationship between the male and female protagonists which finally, somewhat happened at the end of the movie. Hollywood has a love/hate relationship with adultery, as it knows that most of humanity believe it wrong, and as a result cannot glory too much in an adulterous relationship. The movie simply toyed with the idea of an adulterous relationship, but even if it had gone further down this path, I think most are in agreement that adultery is bad. The thing that struck me was not the adultery part, it was another more controversial and insidious subject; the issue of “falling in love” of “compatible partners” and of “finding your true love”.
The “Do you love her/him?” or “Have you fallen in love?” questions are common in movies, but they are even more common in everyday life. I think the reason this scene struck me so much was that I had just been reading a report about single women between in the ages of 25-30. In China if you are a 27 year old female and not yet married you are considered a “leftover”. In China there are a growing number of females who fit this description; nearly 25% of females in the 25-29 age-range are single. However in the article about China, I noticed in my native country (UK), over 70% of females in this age-range are single. Many are on a career path, but many would happily marry if they “Found the One” or if they truly “Fell in Love”. Falling in love and finding a compatible mate who fully supports your career path (or shall we elevate “career path” to a grander word like: destiny), is a tall order indeed and something I want to examine briefly.
What after all is “Falling in love?” Is it finding someone to whom you are physically attracted, someone who emotionally and intellectually meets your personality? Someone who is a provider and a helpmeet, someone who is an encourager? The question of falling in love with this type of Hollywood endorsed approach makes finding a spouse a truly consumer decision. We must all find the right “product” to meet all our life needs. The trouble with this approach is that “compatibility” is actually impossible. When all the marketing is put aside and we see our spouse for who they really are we will discover we have been sold an illusion, all of us. And when we realize this type of “love” is illusionary, we look to find that “love” elsewhere.
The challenge for today’s Disciples of Jesus is that we have completely bought in to this worldview. Many fight the redefinition of marriage in today’s culture war, maintaining it should be one man and one woman, while failing to realize that we have completely bought in to the fact that marriage has been redefined by our culture in another way and we have wholeheartedly agreed with this redefinition. The very premise of the question in the movie “Do you love her?” meant “Do you find her physically, emotionally and intellectually attractive and has she reciprocated some of those feelings?” This is I contend a complete redefinition of “love” as the bible defines it. A fuller examination of the biblical words for love should now ensue (but which I will avoid to keep the blog short), with a particular focus on Agape love, which is the love that the Bible shows is the glue of all good marriages. It is the love of choice, it is the love of service, it is the love of selflessness, it is the love of God.
We must have a clear understanding of this Godly love, which must exist within the Covenant relationship of marriage. Without it we will move from one relationship to the next trying to find “the one”. I don’t want to downplay the need for sexual, emotional and intellectual attraction in marriage and finding your partner, but that is not covenant love. Hollywood sells Consumer “Love” which is selfish”, the Bible teaches Covenant Love, which is selfless. When we enter a covenant we must end the marketing and make the choice to love. Love is not about us, it is about the other person, but in the process of loving we will be changed too.
Let us not embrace Hollywood’s redefinition of love and marriage, which will only lead to broken marriages, messed up kids and sexual immorality in the quest for the one true love. You will never find a perfectly compatible person, the real question for parties getting in a relationship or already in a relationship is are both parties in the relationship willing to enter into with a commitment to covenant love. The question is not if you have “fallen in love” but will you “learn how to love”. We live with the fallout of this approach to love and that is why many are not marrying, but we still hold tenaciously to this redefinition, evidenced by the movie I watched last night. The question for believers is whether we will accept this or fight for the biblical definition of love.