What happened to marriage? Agape love is the answer
It’s all about love!
A friend asked me the question; why is it that at the local primary school more than 50% of the children are from single parent homes? The statistics may not be quite accurate but there is no doubt that marriage is in trouble. Latest marriage and divorce stats indicate that in many countries there are as many divorces as marriages – a sad reflection on the marriage vows that state, “… for better or for worse, in sickness and health, till death us do part”.
It all comes down to love. When love is something you “fall” into and out of, then marriage is going to be in trouble. This type of romantic love based on how I feel when things are going well or how bad I feel when conditions change, is destined to fail. After all, life is challenging and will put even good friendship to the test, and in most cases it will be found to be wanting.
To better understand what love is all about you have to take a close look at the Greek words used to describe love. Unless one can move a relationship into what is called “agapeo” love, many relationships will in fact fail.
“Phileo” is the kind of love that is based on friendship and liking. This is a great love to experience and in a meaningful relationship this needs to be one of the goals. Do we like doing things together? Can we be good friends because friends like spending time together and enjoy each other’s company? This goes beyond the “eros” love that often is the drive that begins a relationship. Erotic love and sex, plays an important part in the beginning of a relationship and needs to continue to do so. But unfortunately different needs, daily pressure and even changing attitudes test this erotic love. As children and work pressure enters into the picture the honeymoon period will end. The reality of day to day pressure and existence puts this love to the test in many ways.
Now into the picture comes another type of love known as “agapeo”. In the English language there is really no word that describes this love. It took Jesus coming into our world to show us what this love is all about. In John 3:16 the writer says “God so loved (“agapeo) the world that he gave his son…..” That illustrates the first important fact about this kind of love. It gives rather than wants. The Apostle Paul best describes it in 1 Corinthians 13:3-6 as being patient, kind, not boastful or proud, not rude or self-seeking, not easily angered and keeping no record of wrong. Rather he describes it as rejoicing in truth, always protecting, hoping, trusting and persevering. When the hard times and challenges of life come, and they surely will, it is this love that will take a relationship through. It is not self serving but rather focused on a mutual submission. In Ephesians 5:21 Paul again writes “submit to one another out of respect for Christ”. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-4, writing about the sexual relationship in marriage, he suggests that the wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. So also the husband’s body does not belong to himself only, but to his wife also. This speaks of the union of two individuals who give up their personal rights to a greater cause, a marriage relationship, with its ongoing challenges and needs of give and take.
In a world where my needs and my happiness is something I have learned to put before anything else, this self-sacrificing attitude is rather strange. “Agape” turns the other cheek, walks the extra mile. It is sensitive to what I can do to make another person happy. If I begin to do this then there is no end to the possibilities for my relationship. A very special woman once told me “marriage is not 50/50, it is 20/80. Put in 80% effort and expect 20% in return and you will have a great relationship”. This would in fact be a good return in the money or business world. The truth of the matter is that many marriages are destroyed by false expectations and a failure to realize that like in everything else in life, you have to invest time and effort in order to get a return.
As I watch a new generation of young people growing up in a world where they demand immediate gratification, where they believe that life owes them happiness, and where they have not learned that hard work is what builds character and success, I fear for marriage in the future!.