My daughter and I once turned on the TV in time to catch the last few minutes of a movie; just enough to grasp the plotline. It featured a pair of lovers – he was sixty, she sixteen. After “The End” slipped slowly off the screen, we sat silent, pondering.
“That’s just wrong,” she said finally, her disgust evident even over the syrupy exit music.
“Yeah, it’s not very acceptable in our culture is it?” I said. Then I thought a moment, remembering what I know of other places, other times. “But in some cultures an age difference like that is common. Even in Bible times….”
“I know,” she said. We turned off the TV and talked about love. Her perspective is that of a happily married woman, nevertheless with some memories of teenage romance she’d rather forget. Mine is shaped by over four decades of love-filled marriage. But I too have memories of other relationships I’d rather forget.
An old, but still popular love song with a great melody asks a haunting question, “How could this be wrong, when it feels so right?” Romantic love often begs questions we’d rather not think about. Is love right only when experienced by two unattached people of compatible ages and backgrounds, or even (dare I say?) compatible sexes? How is it possible that the exquisite condition of the heart which “makes the world go around” could ever be wrong? When it comes to love and marriage, are there any absolutes that cut across all ages, genders, situations, and cultures?
The mention of moral absolutes, in today’s “feel good, do as you please” social climate raises hackles. One reason evangelical Christians so often face media and societal scorn is because they express (not always charitably, for shame) the opinion that there are indeed moral absolutes; overarching ethics, principles and values established by God not to kill joy but to bring joy. That, yes, something that feels so right can often prove disastrously wrong, with consequences resounding for generations.
When I was a little younger (but a lot married) a treasured family friend told me he’d fallen in love with me. I can’t begin to describe the pain his words caused. Never have I been so grateful for a strong belief in a God who loved me enough to set moral boundaries. Had we ignored those values and done what may have felt right at the time, our actions would have become a spreading cancer that poisoned us, our families, our church and our community.
“What do you think God wants for you most?” I asked a young woman weighing a romantic dilemma.
“He wants me to be happy,” she said.
It’s a popular thought. But as I read the Bible I notice that happiness is not God’s primary desire for us. Intimate relationship with himself is. And when we fall in love with his son Jesus Christ, our human love stories are much easier to get right too. Peace and joy are natural by-products.
Friend, in this “month of love,” please think about that. And happy Valentine’s Day!