For a marriage to succeed, each party must make two commitments. One commitment is to the person they are marrying. But given the sinful state of our hearts, the one commitment is not enough. There will be times when the other person is not attractive to us. Our spouse will hurt us, inconvenience us, demand from us. And if our commitment is only to the person, the marriage will start to unravel. Why? Our love was at the shallowest level; the eros level. We loved because there was something attractive in the other person.
But if a marriage is to succeed, there must be a second commitment. That second commitment is to the institution of marriage. That is to say, not only are we committed to the person themselves, we are committed to the success of our marriage regardless of the other person. We see this commitment to our vows and to the other person as an outworking of our love for Christ. Thus we start to move toward an agape love. Agape love loves not because of the attractiveness of the object of love but because of the character of the lover. Agape love is a decision that flows out of the character of the first party. And this commitment to the institution of marriage not only matures us, it moves our marriage past many trials. Agape love makes a stronger marriage.
Just as many marriages bump along because the parties have only made the first commitment to each other, so many Christians only love the bride of Christ, the church, as it is attractive to them. They have an eros type love. We love our church because of how attractive it is to us.
But at some point, when the honeymoon wears off with the church, we will discover that the bride has some spots that are not attractive. The question for us at that point is this: “Will we love her with an shallow, eros love or will we love her with an agape love.” Will we be committed to the church Christ as she can serve us or will we be committed to serve her. Since love builds up, will we seek to build her up or will we come to take? When she fails to meet our needs, will we complain and withdraw or will we go back to God for more resources to give to her.
Jesus loves his bride, the institutional church. Many of her critics excel in pointing out her flaws. And then they withdraw. They love with an eros love. Any godly husband will seek to build up his wife not tear her down. He will be committed to her and the institution of marriage. Many older Christians need a proper view of the church as presented in the Bible. A godly Christian will have a commitment and a love for his church and the institution of the church itself.
As shepherds of New Covenant, we have made a commitment to build this local church, not just attend it. But we also need to pass on that commitment to others. The fleshly Christian will come to be served. Over time, we want to disciple others, based on the agape love they have been shown by Christ, to have an agape love for his bride, the local church.