Thesis: Love is both a commitment and a feeling.
1. Illust. According to legend, there was a third century Christian who lived in Rome named Valentine. He was imprisoned during one of the periodic persecutions against Christians and was sentenced to death. While in prison, Valentine was able to gather violets outside his cell window. He sent them to his loved ones with the message, "Remember your Valentine." After his death he was canonized by the Catholic Church. So now we have "St. Valentine's Day," a day when we send cards to our loved ones asking them to remember us. Valentine's day is this Wednesday.
2. Chances are, you've never heard a Valentine's Day sermon. (I haven't) But I can't think of a more appropriate holiday to sermonize about! Can you? This will be a sermon on love, marriage, and commitment.
a. As most of you know, you will be hearing it from a divorced minister-- one who has experienced failure in this area.
b. Therefore, you can view this sermon in one of two ways:
1) "What right does he have to preach about marriage when he couldn't even hold his own family together?" (cf. Elizabeth Taylor lecturing on "How to Marry and Keep a Man.")
2) "Who can better speak with experience and objectivity than someone who has been married and now isn't?"
c. Whichever way you want to view the bearer of the message, I ask that you carefully listen to the message itself because it is from Scripture.
I. LOVE IS A COMMITMENT.
A. There's an interesting story of love and courtship in Genesis 24.
1. Sarah has died and Abraham is very old.
2. Abraham arranges for his servant to find Isaac a wife.
3. Servant goes to Haran, finds Rebekah, arranges for her to return to marry Isaac.
a. That story constitutes the bulk of chapter 24!
b. It's the conclusion that attracts our attention--when Isaac and Rebekah meet for the first time.
B. Read Genesis 24:62-67.
1. You could hardly call this love at first sight!
a. No engagement ring. No premarital counseling. No Prepare/Enrich marriage inventory. No wedding ceremony.
b. Rebekah never got to read Anabel Morgan's The Total Woman and Isaac never read James Dobson's What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women.
c. Isaac simply took Rebekah into his tent and married her. They changed the name on their mailbox to Mr. & Mrs.
Isaac and lived happily ever after!
2. In this simple story there is an enduring lesson. It is found in the phrase, "So she became his wife and he loved her."
a. Notice anything unusual here? Shouldn't this read, "Isaac loved Rebekah, then she became his wife?"
b. I'm sure that's how it would read if that story was set in our day. Our society equates love with romanticism. Love is defined in terms of hormones and pheromones. When those are gone, so is love.
3. Not so here. How is love defined? In terms of commitment (covenant!).
a. Commitment = foundation of marriage; feelings come and go, but covenant is always the baseline (Gen. 2:24; Mt.19:6).
b. Illust. George Bernard Shaw once said of the vows two people make at a wedding: "When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part." Shaw missed it. It is precisely because those feelings don't always last that we take vows. Someone else has said: "The oath which is sworn in a traditional Christian marriage ceremony is not a ludicrous attempt to prolong the unprolongable. Excitement and passion will wax and wane in any relationship--in any life.... The Christian covenant of marriage is God's way of bringing order and reason into the exciting, delightful and perilous chaos He himself brought into the world when He created male-female erotic love" (Lynn Mitchell).
c. Illust. Later this month there's a couple in this congregation who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. How does a marriage last 50 years? When two people take their covenant seriously! Don and Virginia Blackmon were married after only one real date and only seeing each other a handful of times! Yet their commitment to each other has lasted a lifetime.
II. LOVE IS A FEELING.
A. Love is a commitment. Unquestionably. However, there's a danger that we might limit our definition of love to just commitment.
1. Love is a commitment, but love is also a feeling!
2. Illust. Part of our problem as English-speaking people is there's only one word for love in the English language. Covers a lot of ground. Greek has four words--words that define love in terms of commitment and other words that define it in terms of feeling.