We live in a culture that has taken the God-given gift of love and redefined it to be little more than a feeling. Because we’ve bought into the myth that love is just a feeling, we’ve built marriage on a flimsy foundation of fickle feelings instead of building on the bedrock of commitment. If we get back to God’s definition of love instead of the world’s definition, I believe the divorce rate would instantly plummet, and marriage would immediately become more secure. You and your spouse don’t have to agree about everything as long as you’re united by a love that’s stronger than your disagreements.
God’s definition of love is rooted in the concept of commitment. When you say, “I love you” to your spouse, you aren’t just expressing your current feelings; you’re making a promise of commitment for your shared future. You’re essentially saying, “I am willing to accept the best parts of you and the worst parts of you, and I’m asking you to do the same for me. I’m going to be by your side on the days I’m feeling it, and on the days I’m not feeling it at all. I have strong feelings for you, but my love for you is not a feeling; it’s a promise. It’s a commitment. It’s unbreakable and unconditional like God’s love for me. Because of God’s love, I can love you the way He loves you and me, which is grace-filled, limitless and unconditional.”
Love, by its very nature, is a conscious choice to selflessly put the needs of someone else ahead of your own preferences or comforts. No relationship can survive unless it is rooted in rock-solid commitment. I’m not saying there’s never a cause for divorce. There are extreme circumstances where one spouse’s reckless pattern of constant abuse, infidelity, and/or addiction creates a toxic environment in the home, making a covenant marriage an impossibility. Even in those cases, you should consider loving that spouse even if it’s no longer safe to live together as husband and wife. Most divorces, however, are not the result of these extreme cases; they’re simply the result of losing sight of what love really means. Let’s do a quick refresher course going back to vows you probably exchanged on your wedding day.
As a pastor, I have the privilege of officiating wedding ceremonies. It’s such an honor to stand in that sacred moment with a bride and groom as they exchange vows and rings and enter into the holy covenant of marriage. One of the Bible passages I often read at wedding ceremonies comes from the first chapter of the Book of Ruth. It reads:
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” Ruth 1:16-17
These words beautifully capture the commitment necessary for a healthy marriage, but I’m always quick to point out that these words weren’t spoken in the context of marriage. This beautiful promise was expressed in a much-unexpected way. The story gives us some fascinating insight into the power of commitment in all healthy relationships.
Ruth was a young, Moabite woman who lived around three thousand years ago. Times were challenging back then, and Ruth’s young husband died. Based on the religious and cultural customs of the day, she no longer had any obligation to her husband’s family, and she was free to pursue a new life. Though Ruth could do as she wished, she refused to leave her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Ruth knew Naomi had no one, and Ruth selflessly committed her life to Naomi’s service. Because of Ruth’s selflessness and unconditional love, God blessed her in remarkable ways. Not only did God provide food and shelter for the two women, but God brought a man named Boaz into Ruth’s life.
This rich kinsman-redeemer married Ruth, and together, they started a family. Their lineage became a generational line of love. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. David became the greatest king in Israel’s history and the author of many of the Bible’s psalms and poetry.
King David’s lineage continued with a son named Solomon, who wrote the Wisdom Literature in the Bible and was blessed by God to be the wisest man of his day, but all this royalty was only the tip of the iceberg. God’s ultimate plan through this family tree would happen a thousand years later.
Two descendants of King David named Joseph and Mary made their way to the City of David for a census. The town was called Bethlehem and Mary was expecting a child. She gave birth to a son named Jesus, who was the son of God. He was the Prince of Peace and the embodiment of love.
God brought his son through the lineage of a poor young woman named Ruth, who understood the power of commitment and the meaning of love. God wants to create a generational impact through your life and marriage as well. If you’ll commit to God’s definition of love in your faith and your marriage, then there’s no limit to the generational impact God can create through your marriage.
For additional tools to help build your faith and your marriage, please download our free 31-Day Marriage Devotional.