Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10
I was in a discussion about what was the overall principle of Christian marriage as described in Ephesians 5. I said that agape love is the overarching principle of all the commands. The person I was discussing it with said, no it’s to obey the commands God gives to us. Paul makes it clear in Romans that it is love that fulfills the law. We are commanded by God to love Him and to love our neighbor.
When one looks at our overall Christian walk, everything that we are commanded to do is born from LOVE. Love is the greatest attribute of God—His love for us is why we love Him, and consequently, why we obey his commandments. That’s why Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. Obedience is born, not out of duty or obligation, but of love. The obedience that is born strictly from duty or obigation is not heartfelt–it is the type of obedience that Israel, that the Pharisees, gave to God. It is the obedience that is born out of ritual and motions of the flesh. But the obedience born of LOVE is superior. That’s why Hosea told his wife, dont’ call me Ba’al, that is Lord, but rather call me Ishi, husband. He was looking more for her loving devotion than for her dutiful obedience.
This kind of love is not the mushy romantic love that gets so often ingrained with the Gospel. It is the deep, soulful love of devotion. The woman in the Song of Solomon said, him whom my soul loveth. She says this five times throughout the short book. The woman loves Solomon from her soul (and it’s clear from the Septuagint that this is agape love). This is a type of the devotion we are to show to our Lord, our God, Jesus Christ.
Love is the bond of perfectness. That is why agape love is so important to marriage. Even over the roles that men and women have toward each other, this agape love is what bonds us together in perfect union. Agape love is commitment, affection and high esteem. While women are to be taught to love their husbands with affection (Titus 2:4), affection is also inherent in agape. Men who love their wives are going to be affectionate (fond, liking, showing tender attachment) toward them.
We are commanded as Christians to be kindly affectioned one to another. God, through His agape love shows us loving kindness and tender mercies, so we see that God is affectionate toward us, and so ought we be toward one another. Agape love for each other is what makes Ephesians 5 workable. Without it, it is just commands that become duty, obligation, devoid of the joy that comes through His love.
Pamela Parizo © 2017