It’s a common question in our culture: How do I know when I’m in love?
No one has ever asked me that question. I wish they would. But, honestly, it’s probably best that they don’t. I’m pretty sure they won’t like my answer. That’s because I don’t think like much of our culture.
You see, a person doesn’t “fall” in or out of love. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. It’s something we make up our minds to do.
Let me offer an example. Boy meets girl. Boy finds girl to be beautiful, witty, fun and desirable. He thinks she has great potential. Then boy finds out that girl is engaged to be married in a month. At that point, all of her charming qualities don’t disappear. They are not suddenly less attractive. But, if he is honorable, he has changed the orientation of his heart. She is betrothed to someone else, so he chooses to not love her.
It’s not a falling. It’s a choice.
You may be aware that there are two primary Greek words in the New Testament that we translate as love. One, agape, is generally seen as God’s love. The other, philia or phileo, depending on the context, is usually understood to be brotherly love. Hence, Philadelphia means the city of brotherly love, and philanthropy is about caring for others.
But that brotherly love understanding is not completely accurate. The word philia can also mean a type of love where you set your heart on someone or something. It’s used in 1 Timothy 6:10 about the love of money being the cause of all kinds of evil. If you set your heart on money, it will cause problems.
Setting our heart on someone is love. It’s a decision. We choose to do it or not do it.
You don’t fall in love. You choose to love someone. You don’t fall out of love. You choose to stop loving. (I’ll admit that there certainly can be actions from the other person that provoke that decision, but it is still a decision.)
That’s why Titus 2:4 says that the older women should “train the young women to love their husbands and children.” You can’t train someone to do something that is an innate part of them. The young women can only be trained if there is a choice involved.
There is a common cultural notion that there is one perfect life-mate out there somewhere waiting to be found. And when you find that person, you should marry them. But what happens is that somewhere along the journey that “perfect” person does or says something one too many times and you decide to stop loving them. So, that “perfect” mate gets jettisoned – because it was obviously the wrong one – to find the really perfect one.
I don’t see any scriptural basis for any of that. There is no perfect person out there. Every one of us is sinful and in desperate need of redemption. So, rather than looking for the perfect mate, we have the opportunity to decide to love someone.
That’s why Paul says that a widow can marry “whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) As long as the guy is Christ-follower, it’s okay. No special bells and whistles need to sound in your mind or heart. Two people who are honestly committed to Christ should be able to work through their differences.
If you’re currently looking for a life-mate, when you finally settle on someone, you’ll end up with a person who is imperfect and sinful. Decide to love them anyway.