© 09.26.2015 By D. Eric Williams
Some readers of my recent article The Habit Of Love were concerned I was advocating a sterile, emotionless type of marriage. Although I did say a godly marriage is not built on emotion I did not mean to imply there should be no emotion in the marriage relationship. The truth is, most marriage relationships begin with physical attraction or emotional chemistry.
This has been the case since the beginning of time. Indeed, the Bible gives us examples of this phenomenon. Scripture tells us that Sarah, the wife of Abraham was a beautiful woman (Genesis 12:11). Rebecca, the bride of Isaac is described as beautiful (Genesis 24:15-16). Rachel, the second wife of Jacob is presented as having a beautiful face and knockout figure (Genesis 29:17, Rachel was beautiful and had a good figure Contemporary English Version). Although these Scripture references do not mention the emotive response of the men involved, the fact that the physical appearance of the women is included in the record speaks to the physical attraction and emotional reaction of their beaus.
There is additional evidence in the biblical record concerning the emotional aspect of the relationships mentioned above. For instance, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife (Genesis 26:8, KJV). As John Gill says in his comments on this passage, "laughing and joking with her, which by his motions and gestures, and the airs and freedoms he took, Abimelech could perceive were such as were not usual between brothers and sisters, though honest and lawful between man and wife; such as embracing her in his arms, and frequently kissing her, and the like." I suppose Isaac may have been cultivating "habits of love" but any normal man will tell you that it is emotionally satisfying to "sport" with one's wife.
Probably the most obvious example of emotional attachment is Jacob and his willingness to work for seven years in order to marry Rachel. Earlier in the biblical record, Jacob is pictured as a cold-blooded, sober minded realist who is willing to finagle his brother out of his birthright. If we pay attention to the text we understand that Jacob hung around the tents not because he was a mama's boy but because he was a top-notch manager who knew how to run the show. When Jacob met up with Laban and his daughters, it seems he threw that levelheaded approach out the window. Granted, he continued to manage his commercial affairs with great skill but because he was head over heels in love with Rachel, he employed that managerial ability to the benefit of Laban.
I know exactly how Jacob felt. I had dated a few girls before I met my wife but none of them stirred my emotions; I never thought I was in love. But when I met my wife - a woman like Rachel who is beautiful and has a good figure - I felt an immediate chemistry. I had met her when I was on my way to play basketball with some friends and so about ten minutes after making her acquaintance, I was gushing about her to my brother-in-law. I even made the declaration that "I've met the woman I'm going to marry." This after a five-minute conversation.
As wonderful as these feelings are, they do not provide an adequate foundation for a long-term relationship. This is why so many marriages fall apart. The world believes "chemistry" or "falling in love" (or whatever term we might apply to emotional attachment) is enough to maintain a lifelong relationship. Of course that's not the case. The fact is, history informs us that a marriage begun without emotion that later develops an emotional element along with habits of love may be the most stable kind of union.
Therefore, it is important we learn habits of love. This should be something taught to young people before, during and after courtship. If a young couple can immediately begin to develop habits of love in their marriage they will find the transition from an emotion heavy relationship to Christlike love less difficult. Indeed, the newly married man will gladly pick up his dirty laundry and put it in the clothes hamper because, after all, he's head over heels in love with his bride. He will also find it easier to break more serious sinful habits like rage, indifference, and so on.
Although it is important for new marrieds to learn habits of love as early as possible, the truth is, this lifestyle should be taught from infancy. I'm simply suggesting that when a man or woman creates a new life they will find themselves in need of new or reconfigured habits of love; the first day of the honeymoon is a wonderful time to start.