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Real Love Begins at Calvary

Love Worth Finding is concentrating on true love as it applies to marriage—a relationship designed by God to be shared between one man and one woman for as long as both are living on this Earth. In sermons broadcast on television, on radio, and available digitally, Pastor Adrian Rogers addresses the biblical foundation for marriage and for real love in the home. This article explores some of that content. If you’re not married, please don’t click away; there’s plenty of sound biblical advice that applies to your life, whatever it looks like.

What is Real Love?

God is love and created us to love and be loved. By choice Adam and Eve—and all men and women since—rejected true love by rejecting God. But God set in motion in the Garden of Eden, and carried out on Calvary, the one redeeming act of true love that could bring us back into loving union with Himself and with one another. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16); “…for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

If everyone who loves is born of God, those who do not know God do not know real love. They may experience emotional, reactive forms of love associated with romance, parental and familial ties, and friendship—these are echoes of God’s love. But the volitional, unconditional form of love that puts another first regardless of circumstances and behaviors, the form of love that enables one to lay down one’s life solely for the good of another, is God’s agapé love. It is real love; it is available only through the cross.

Because Jesus’ act of true love on the cross is the only means by which “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God,” real love begins at Calvary. It is the foundation for true, selfless, eternal love in marriage, in the family, in the Church, and in every relationship. So-called love built on any other foundation ultimately will perish.

Real Love Cultivates Contentment

Our homes were meant to be places of contentment. Another word for this is peace. Ultimately Jesus is our peace. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angels proclaimed “peace, goodwill toward men” (See Luke 2:14); when Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death at Calvary, He promised to leave His peace with them (See John 14:27); and in that same chapter in John He promised to prepare a place for His loved ones in His Father’s house (See John 14:2). But until we are in that eternal place of contentment, we are to strive to build such homes on Earth.

A loving, contented, peaceful home is possible when men and women keep Christ at the center of their marriages. Adrian Rogers says Psalm 28 provides us with a picture of a contented family in six short verses:

"Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house. Your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. The Lord bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!"

Is that a picture of your home? It can be. Whether you’re just starting out in marriage, in the busyness of parenting young children, dealing with the needs (and sometimes missteps) teenagers experience as they push limits and establish independence, rediscovering each other in an empty nest, or working to leave a godly legacy with your “children’s children,” Psalm 28 provides valuable instruction. This Psalm contains blessings, too, for those in single-parent homes or for those whose families look more like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany (See Luke 10:38–42 and John 11:1–46).

Your home can be a place of contentment—an inner sufficiency that keeps you at peace in spite of outward circumstances. This requires you to keep every kind of covetousness away from your door, for yourselves and for any children in your home. It requires you to seek God first, recognizing Him as the cornerstone of your home and the master of your marriage. And it requires you to place a premium not only on faith for your family but also on fellowship—working, worshipping, and laughing together on a regular basis.

Read a more in-depth article called Is Your Family Content?

Real Love Seeks God’s Glory

We love God “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Sometimes, however, we fail to understand that loving God and giving Him the glory He desires for us to give Him is for our own good and for the good of our families.

God calls on us to glorify Him because as we perceive His unsurpassed value, we begin to recognize that He is the source of all that is truly good, pleasing, joyous, beneficial and blessed. Isn’t that what we want for our children? To be blessed? To understand that the closer they grow to Him, the more they become like Him, the better their lives will be?

Raising our children to glorify God is not only good for the kingdom of God but also for the joy of our children, and for the benefit of all of the succeeding generations in our families.

If you really love your children, seek God’s glory and teach them to do the same.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:9 further promises that the instruction given by godly mothers and fathers, if heeded by children “will be a graceful ornament,” like beautiful gold chains children can wear. Proverbs 20:7 says, “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.”

One important way for the righteous man to bless his children is to understand the unconditional love God has for him and to give that unconditional love to his children. This goes for moms as well. Unconditional love seeks God’s glory because it models God’s character.

That unconditional love, says Pastor Adrian Rogers, “doesn’t mean that you give to a child everything he wants. That’s not really love at all. True love is not giving to someone what he wants, it is giving to someone what he needs, but there must be unconditional acceptance regardless of the child’s misbehavior. I may not accept what you do, but I accept you.”

As we affectionately touch, actively listen to, and demonstrate empathy toward our children—even though their problems seem small to us—we communicate God’s love and affirm our children’s value. This affirmation helps protect them from susceptibility to unhealthy ways to build security as they enter the vulnerable preteen and teenage years.

Actively encouraging your children’s character is another way to protect your children and promote God’s glory.

“You bless your children with encouragement,” Pastor Rogers says. “When you regularly encourage a child, what you’re doing is giving to that child confidence.” Encouragement—given to promote the child’s character—is different from praise given to recognize performance, Pastor Rogers adds. It’s more important to affirm a child for who he is than to praise him for what he does.

For more on how to glorify God and bless your children, read the article, Are You Raising Godly Children?

Real Love is Sacrificial

God’s agapé love is sacrificial. The Father sacrificed His own Son that we might know Him. Real love in marriage—the kind of love that leads to really knowing a spouse—is sacrificial as well.

We must sacrifice the world’s notion of romantic love if we want something deeper. Often we must sacrifice what the world tells us we deserve to obtain what God knows we need. Because He created marriage in the first place, His Word is full of great instruction on marriage.

This month Pastor Rogers is speaking to us from 1 Peter 3, which harkens back to the imperfect but still beautiful marriage story of Abraham and Sarah in the Book of Genesis.

"Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:1-7).

Pastor Rogers extracts seven ideas from this passage that help us understand the sacrifices we must make to build fulfilling marriages. We must be faithful when the world would excuse faithlessness, accepting when it’s easier to find fault, content when the world would suggest we grab for all we can get, and forgiving though others would justify unforgiveness. We must keep lines of communication open when it’s easier to go to bed angry, actively pursue romance when the worldly message is to discard and replace, and practice the sacrifice of prayer with and for our mates.

For more about real love in marriage, read the article, Seven Words for Every Marriage.

Ultimately, to experience all that God designed marriage to be, we must sacrifice by putting God first and our spouse’s second, relegating ourselves to third place. This is the opposite of the “I’m Number One” attitude promoted in movies, music, and best-selling self-help books.

Yet it is exactly what God did for us at Calvary where real love begins.