When I was in my teenage days, one of the signs of old age was being able to buy liquor and drink in bars or pubs. However as the years went by all the guys completed their national service while the girls were in their final year of university. Going to pubs or bars was nothing new. Perhaps we had eased into this new phase of young adults. But over time, I noticed something. I first noticed this change on my Facebook newsfeed. This change would mark the new sign of old age. Just what change and sign am I talking about? Relationship Status.
I recall quite vividly that in one of the years on Valentine’s Day, I had at least 4 to 5 friends who got engaged. I knew that this day was going to come. I just didn’t know it was going to be this soon! Slowly I noticed that within a year, I had to attend more and more weddings. It was wonderful for me to celebrate the matrimony of my friends but something also struck me. I realized that among the young people I spoke to, many had this conception that only through marriage could one experience what Christians call agape or the love of Christ and that if they somehow are unable to find a partner, they may never get to experience this unconditional love. This is where I think they’re wrong. To be perfectly clear, I do think and believe that Christian marriage ought to display the unconditional love that Christ has given to the church (Eph 5:25) and for that reason one certainly could experience and practice the love of Christ within marriage. What I do not believe is that the love of Christ can only be experienced in marriage.
In one of the dialogues between Jesus and his disciples, Jesus says “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) The imperative in this verse is straight forward. The Christian community, ought to display a certain type of love that reflects Christ’s love for his people, the love that drove him to the cross. This is very comforting but at the same time challenging for the church. It is comforting because it reminds us that the love of Christ is a reality that can be experienced regardless of whether we are single or married. It is however also challenging because it instructs us to similarly show unconditional love not just to our spouse but to one another. In the same manner, 1 John 4:19 which says “We love because he first loved us” isn’t addressing married couples nor is it talking about a love that can only be found in marriage. But rather this statement is addressed to anyone who profess belief in God. John’s point is that believers of God ought to display agape love towards one another because of God’s initiative in first extending His love to us.
As a youth worker, helping youths to understand Christian love is important. It is in this understanding of what love is and where love is found that secures our identity. As mentioned earlier, the love between husband and wife ought to reflect Christ’s love for the church and so yes, one certainly could experience God’s love within marriage. But it is also true that one can experience God’s love within the church. The love Christians have for one another as friends also ought to display Christ’s agape love as seen in the above verses. The sad reality though is that churches may at times fail to reflect this sort of love. However, the solution isn’t to find it in marriage or think that it exists only in marriage because marriages can also fail. The solution it seems would be to go back to the source of love and that is God himself where we see the true and perfect love of God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us.