Love And Marriage
Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)
My dear encountered couples:
Have you noticed a trend in our modern society which seems to emphasize “love” but considers the Commandments of God a negative attitude on the part of our Father? Today’s readings make many references to “love”. Paul writes, “Whoever is without love does not know God.” Jesus comments, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He also said, “This I command you, love one another.”
So, to some, love is the answer. Why be negative? Why discuss the commandments when Jesus Himself emphasizes love?
But wait a minute! When we observe these two concepts in a different light, aren’t they exactly the same? Isn’t loving one’s neighbor keeping the commandments? Let’s analyze this. If I love you, each of you, would I ever harm you? Would I injure you or would I kill you? If I did that, it would be a very strong sign that I did not love you.
If I truly love God, would I ignore Him? Would I never think of Him or seek His company? And, therefore, as we read the first three commandments which specifically state we will put God first in our lives and we will set aside one day a week for worshipping Him, those Commandments make perfect sense. Where could we find a greater love than the love God has for us? Is he not responsible for our very life? So, when we consider the commandment to love God our reaction should be, “Well, that’s not really a commandment. That’s just common gratitude.”
Love is not only an emotion, but it also calls for action. A spouse may say to his or her mate, “You don’t love me anymore!” A husband might respond, “Why do you say that, honey?” The answer comes back, “Because you don’t spend time with me, because you don’t notice me. You don’t talk to me.” Sound familiar? Paul says, “Love is kind, love is patient” but it is more than just an emotion ... it is action. Jesus puts in very plainly when He says, “Love one another.”
Let’s look at some of the other hard to obey commandments. What about, “Thou shalt not steal.” Can you imagine stealing something from someone if you truly loved them? Would you steal from your best friend or from your children? So how do we distinguish between the Commandments and love?
Well we don’t have to because in His wisdom, God is calling us to loving actions in two different ways: keeping the commandments and loving our neighbors. Isn’t the same true of lying, of slander, of physically harming someone? If I love someone I could never treat them in that manner.
It’s true of men and women in love. One only has to study the statistics to realize God’s way is the best way. If two people are truly in love they will remain chaste until they marry. If they don’t, and they break up, someone is going to be deeply hurt. The statistics on trial marriages is very depressing.
Couples who live together get married less than 50% of the time. Of those who do marry, over 50% of them get divorced. So, when God says, “Remain chaste until marriage” He’s simply saying, “You may consider this commandment difficult to follow but, in reality, I’m only trying to keep you from getting hurt.” Why? “Because I, your God, loves you more than you can ever imagine.”
So, let’s change history. Moses didn’t come down from the mountain with the two tablets. Instead, Jesus came down from the mountain and proclaimed, “Love one another as I love you.” Well, if everyone loved one another as Jesus asks, there would be no need for the commandments. By like token, since we already have commandments, it’s taken for granted we would treat each other as Jesus treated us, with great love. God is making it easy for us. He’s saying the same thing is two different ways. He probably figures we may not hear just one instruction.
Why is this important to us living in our modern, promiscuous society? Because there is a philosophy that says we should never judge anyone. The “live and let live” society in which we live can be very dangerous, particularly to the young people. Even mentioning the commandments can create an impression that on is “judgmental” and “mean spirited”.
Teaching our children that love is the only answer is telling them only half the story. Without the understanding that God has given us commandments in addition to exhorting us to love one another, we can easily fall into the trap that if we are loving, everything will be fine.
However, the two concepts are not contradictory. Listen to Paul’s words, “Whoever is without love does not know God.” Jesus says the same thing, but He approaches this concept from a different angle. He says, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Then He sums it all up by incorporating the two concepts when He says, “This I command you, love one another.”
In John’s gospel, the story of the woman accused of adultery indicates the importance of both love and the commandments. The Pharisees brought a woman to Him who had committed adultery, for which the punishment was stoning. When Jesus said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone” no one responded and eventually the crowd dispersed. Then in a classic exchange, Jesus asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one sir.” Jesus answered, “Neither do I condemn you.”
He saved her life because He loved her. However, His next words were, “Go and sin no more.” He indicated adultery is an offense against the commandments and said, in effect, “Keep the commandments. Don’t do it again.”
There’s an old song entitled “Love and Marriage”. The key line is, “You can’t have one without the other.” So, it is that love and the commandments are the two cornerstones of our spiritual lives. They fit comfortably together.