About a decade ago, Arlie Hochschild of the The New York Times released an essay called “The State of Families, Class and Culture.” She observed that in modern times, we have a curiously consumerist approach to love and marriage:
On Internet sites and television shows, we watch potential partners searching “through the rack” of dozens of beauties or possible beaus. Some go on “speed dates;” others go to “eye-gazing parties”—two minutes per gaze, 15 gazes—to find that special someone. If advertisers first exploited the “restless spirit” by guiding consumers’ attention to the next new thing, a market spirit now guides our search for the next new love. The culprit is not the absence of family values, I believe, but a continual state of unconscious immersion in a market turnover culture.
According to Hochschild, many treat love less like a committed covenant and more like a cost/benefit proposition. In the modern west, where divorce rates are high and people delay marriage longer than ever before, love is often treated as a means to personal fulfillment and little else. As long as there is sexual and relational fulfillment; as long as we continue to enjoy one another’s company; as long as our emotional connection comes naturally and we don’t have to work for it; as long as we both feel that this relationship benefits us more than it costs us personally…we will keep going.
But as soon as one or more of these things changes, we hit eject.
Said another way, love is in crisis these days. Because whenever “…as long as we both shall live” is replaced with “…as long as our love shall last,” love ceases to be love.
The biblical vision for love between men and women is much different than this. Love’s starting point is an other-orientation versus a self-serving orientation. Words like love, covenant, submit, give yourself up for, lay down your life on behalf of, feed, nurture and respect are freely used in Scripture to describe God’s vision for his two image-bearers—male and female—coming together as one (Ephesians 5:21-33).
These principles from Scripture also translate into non-romantic, cross-gender and same-gender friendships. For Christians, the point and trajectory of marriage and friendship is the everlasting union between Christ and the Church. Our goal whether single or married is to prepare ourselves, and also each other, for that union.
Naked and Unashamed
In the early chapters of Genesis, God describes how a man shall leave his parents and be united to a wife and the two will become one flesh. He also describes how Adam and Eve, the first and prototypical human couple, lived their lives before one another: “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:24-25).
They were completely exposed and comprehensively loved.
They were fully known and not rejected.