A Portrait of Love

Love changes everything!  When two people are in love the world lights up.  Remember how that felt? Romantic love not only stirs us physically, our whole being is affected.  It knocks us off balance—and can result in true balance.  Being loved and in love makes us feel attractive.  “I feel pretty…,”  say the lyrics from “My Fair Lady.”  Yet, loving another takes the focus off of ourself.  Our thoughts aren’t so much about how we are feeling as much as wondering how he is doing today, what he is up to, when we’ll see him next.  True love touches the heart.  Lust or passion is something else entirely.  That is more about hormones than the affections of the heart!  Heart-felt love stretches us, makes us whole, complete, and able to connect with the one who loves us back.  We cease to be a single, one, alone.  Attraction that leads to true love starts the process of uniting two individuals into one unit; a “becoming” that takes a lifetime; a oneness; a union, a pair… resulting in a togetherness that benefits both. That oneness is why death or divorce rips us apart with such searing pain.

I’ve always wondered at theologians who make light of romantic love in marriage.  What are they thinking?  What have they missed?  Being friends with our husbands is great, but without romance?  Forget it!  I think it is a compliment to be called an older man’s best friend at the end of a long marriage together.  It says a lot about a relationship that has survived the ups and downs of life together.  But, oh my, love is so much more.  John was my best friend.  But, believe me, we had an attraction to each other that was far more than just friendship.

Why am I going on and on about this?  It is because Christian marriage is to be a portrait of love.  It is not only about helping each other or raising children together.  Yes, these are a big part of marriage.  But, leaving and cleaving, becoming one, and enjoying each other without being ashamed is what makes for a portrait of love.

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”…Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:23-25).


“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

The first biblical principle is that love is the central theme of the gospel.  Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and love others as much as you naturally love yourself.  Do that and you will have fulfilled all of God’s commands.”  Of course, we miserably fail to do this!  So that brings us right back to needing a Savior who loved us enough to suffer, die, and even experience hell in our place. Talk about love.  To intentionally die for another person or group of people certainly takes love. And to love the Father so much that you are willing to die because He has asked it of you.  Then to think of those people as your Bride, and even plan a “marriage supper of the Lamb” is both profound and mysterious (Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:6-8). Yes, true love is at the core of the gospel.

The second biblical principle is that the Father is the source of love.  He initiates love.  He starts the whole thing.  God is love.  Love is the characteristic of the Father.  He LOVES his Son.  Jesus is the BELOVED…the one who is loved.  This great mystery of love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (who are one unit yet diverse in how each relates to us) leaves us in awe.  We are blessed in and through this Son who is especially loved by the Father (Ephesians 1:5-6).  In fact, the Father sets his love upon us.  He blesses us and provides the way for us to come before his throne as if we were blameless and without sin (Ephesians 1:3-4).  Jesus cloaks us in his own righteousness and advocates for us.  The Holy Spirit comes into the world out of love, knowing our need for guidance, comfort, and assurance of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14).  All of this is because of the Father’s love.

For God so loved the world,  that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…(John 3:16).


…for the Father himself loves you (John 16:27).


When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…(John 16:13)


And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (John 14:21b).

Love is at the center of the Trinity.  It is at the heart of the gospel.  You miss the point of the Bible if you miss this.

True love like this is a many splendorous thing.  It is glorious!  Since marriage is a portrait of God’s love for his people, married love should not be tossed aside and made clinical without touching the heart.   Love in marriage is the clearest image of what love is to be like: oneness, wholeness, unity, tenderness, kindness… otherness….  Christian marriage is to reflect steadfast love and mercy.  In fact, love between a Bride and Groom is used as a picture of the heart affections between the Savior and his people.  Those already in heaven are being “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” to be with their Savior forever (Revelation 21:2).  Leave love out of marriage?  Crazy. Someone is missing something major!

An Application

Are you single?  Don’t pay attention to those who talk only about common interests, getting to know each other through courtship so you can be friends instead of lovers.  Of course, courtship and talk like this are designed to maintain sexual purity.  But to ignore the role of romantic attraction in searching for a mate is a fatal error.  Think again about that image of the Bride adorned for her husband. Doesn’t it imply an attraction between the two?

Is your marriage a portrait of love….a sweet fragrance picked up by those who know you well?

Has your heart been strangely warmed by remembering how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have loved you intentionally, steadfastly, and with great mercy?  Doesn’t being loved feel good?!  Being loved makes us want to love back, doesn’t it?

Why don’t you use the Bible verses in bold above as your brushes to paint a portrait of God’s love?


About Carol Brandt

I earned a B.A. in History from Florida State University and M.Ed in.Higher Education from Florida Atlantic University. I taught high school social studies before “retiring” to full-time homemaking and raising two daughters. Now I love being a grandmother to four boys and a girl. I have also raised five collies.

My husband, John, was an optometrist, who worked tirelessly for his profession through private practice and as a consultant, and served on the Board of Trustees of Illinois College of Optometry for twenty years.

Ernest Reisinger was my chief mentor in this warm-hearted application of Calvinism. He gave me many books! The Founders Journal and Founders Conferences, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Charles Spurgeon have been other sources of Reformed thinking as well as the other warm-hearted ones listed in my book, “Warm-hearted Calvinists.”

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