Question: "What should be the Christian view of romance?"
Answer: Although there are no references to the word romance in the Bible, there are 281 mentions of love. Since the dictionary definition for romance is "ardent emotional attachment or involvement between people; a love affair," these two terms can sometimes be used interchangeably. But the true meaning of love, as defined in the Bible, has been corrupted in the common usage of our English language and society. Most often, love is confused with infatuation - that elated, "high" feeling we get when we "fall in love." This kind of "love" is something that lasts typically a short time and, unless replaced by true love, results in broken relationships.
The Bible covers two types of love: agape and phileo. Agape love is represented by God's love for us. It is a non-partial, sacrificial love best demonstrated by the gift in John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." This kind of love is unconditional. The "Love Chapter" in 1 Corinthians deals more explicitly with this. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). This passage is often quoted at weddings and other celebrations of love.
Agape is a connection through the spirit. A true manifestation of this requires a relationship with Christ. For without Him, agape love isn't exhibited in its truest form. We, as humans, can't reach this level alone. We need our Heavenly Father's Spirit in us, working through us. "The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Only through that Spirit can we reach this goal.
The other kind of love, phileo, is considered "brotherly love." It is usually based upon how others treat us and our feelings in any given situation. It involves direct interaction and sometimes comes with a price tag of expectation, wanting something back in return. It's a demonstrative form of love offered through the soul. But, it's also a command from God. "Let us love one another, because love comes from God" (1 John 4:7).
Love is the attribute of God that means the most to us. If God didn't love us, whom He created, He would have traded us in for a better model long ago. Despite our many failures, God keeps working with us (Romans 5:8). Time and time again, despite His patience being tested, He demonstrates that love for His people. He only banned Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. He didn't take their lives. He spared the world because He found one man of upright faith in Noah. He rescued Lot from Sodom before destroying that city. He made Abraham the father of many nations and blessed him with his long-awaited son, despite Abraham's impatience when he fathered a son through his wife's servant.
In the same way God shows His love for us, He expects us to love Him totally and to show love toward each other. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). Jesus spoke these words when the Pharisees questioned Him about the greatest commandment of God. Although they tried to trick Him, Jesus didn't change the law; He fulfilled it. His sayings about love were not new. The emphasis was merely changed.
The relationships in our lives will either be governed by agape or phileo love. When thinking in terms of romance, we allow the manifestation of that agape love to pour out from our hearts. As a result, we are eager to do everything we can to please the other person and make that person happy. In a love relationship between a man and a woman, the romance is the physical evidence of the love that exists. When that relationship progresses to marriage, the love built between the man and woman only grows deeper as the bond is made stronger through the intimate union of body and soul. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Biblical love elevates the husband's affections for his wife to the point of loving his wife "as his own body." It also instructs wives to submit to their husbands as the head of the household (Eph. 5:25-29). But submission doesn't mean subservience. On the contrary, when true agape love is manifested in the marriage, the two will act as one, and both will love the other as they love themselves. The tenderness and romance will come out of that love.
By far, the best book in the Bible on this romantic and agape type of love is the Song of Solomon. An oft-quoted and many times favorite of romantics, this book demonstrates the parallel between the agape love Christ has for His church and the deep, abiding love a husband has for his bride. The lover and beloved exchange dialogue with each other, and the beloved speaks with her friends. Every passage attests to the deep and abiding love between the lover and beloved. The two are so consumed with that love that it fills them and gives them strength to face each new day. They find comfort and solace in each other's arms and are incomplete without each other. Being together excites them, and when they're apart, they anticipate their reunion.
But, above everything else that is demonstrated in God's Word, it's important to keep in mind that love/romance is an action. It's not passive, and it's not a feeling. It's a verb. It requires you to do something in order to bring it to pass. It also requires that you put the other person's wants and desires above your own. Whenever you need a reminder, go back and read 1 Corinthians 13. And remember, you don't have to do it alone. God's Spirit will work through you. All you have to do is ask.
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