A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“The idea that being ‘in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made… As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises. Love songs all over the world are full of vows of eternal constancy. The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature: it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do (p.107).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
It is an interesting question. If being “in love” is the pinnacle experience, then why have we added marriage to it? You might begin by asserting that “we” did not add marriage to love, but it was God’s design. I would agree, but that rebuttal does not address the audience who would ask the question.
We find that even those who reject God (at least as defined in the Bible, interpreted by author’s original intent) fight fervently for the right to be married because they believe that it would add something to their experience of being “in love.” I reference the gay-marriage debate here, not for political purposes, but merely as an example.
As I have observed these debates (admittedly from a distance, I am not a highly politically-motivated person), my impression is that their motives are larger than, “You told me I can’t so I’m going to prove I can.” They sincerely want to be married. Why? If one should be free to exit marriage because “I fell out of love” would those not seeking to follow a particular religious code (like the Bible) want to add marriage to their experience of being in love?
We make vows for a reason that is beyond pragmatic. We make vows because we are made in the image of a covenant-making God. There is something higher than being “in love,” namely reflecting the image of the God we were made to glorify.
We do not serve a temporal God. Therefore a temporal experience of being in love is not the ultimate expression of the character of the God who is love (I John 4:8). What is more in keeping with God’s character is when that state of being in love is sealed within a self-sacrificing covenant.
As Lewis notes that Chesterton pointed out, even secular love songs from all cultures and time periods testify to this. True romantic love longs to seal itself in promises of fidelity, exclusivity, and sacrificially finding joy in the joy of the other.
What difference does this make? I would contend that it undercuts one of the primary decision making criteria in our culture. Consider, how many harmful decisions are made based upon the justification that “I am in love” or “I am no longer in love”? If that standard were removed from its place at the pinnacle of decision making, how many life tragedies would be avoided?
As a final addendum, please do not hear this as a condemnation of being “in love.” I firmly believe that being in love is one of the most blissful blessings that God has bestowed upon the human race. It may be one of the purest foretastes of Heaven’s perpetual worship. This reflection is merely a warning against one of the most basic human tendencies – trying to replace God with one of His gifts to us.