We are the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. We were created “male and female.” We were set up to love. To absorb the love of God into our bloodstream and then to share it with another human being.
But we don’t live in a garden anymore. We’re the exact opposite of “naked and unashamed.” We wear clothes — some of us more than others, a-hem!—and far too often, our clothes are a cheap facade to mask our guilt and shame.
When it comes to love, we are both the victim and the perpetrator of the crime. Because we are human, we love, but because we love, we bleed. Love is the source of our highest highs and lowest lows. Love is joy and laughter and gift and freedom and faith and healing, but when love goes south, it’s a knife to the chest.
If you’re a child of divorce, you feel the tension. You know better than anybody what happens when love breaks down, yet you are drawn to love like a moth to a flame. It’s in your blood. Children grow up dreaming of marriage. Little boys want to marry their moms. Little girls put on white dresses and play “march down the aisle.” You’re no different. But at the same time you live under a dark cloud of paranoia. Will you make the exact same mistake as your parents? Will you become another statistic? Will your dream become a nightmare?
And there’s good reason. The odds are not in your favor.
Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.
Did you catch that? Fifty percent.
Because we hear that stat all the time, we grow numb to how gut-wrenching and nauseating it is. The chances of your marriage lasting more than a few short years are fifty-fifty.
Toss a coin into the air. Call heads or tails. Slap it on your wrist. Those are the odds.
What happened? How did we get from the Garden of Eden to this? And how can we get back on track?
Watch the Video Trailer: Loveology
Introduction to this Week’s Study
If you know anything about the Gospels, you know people are always coming to Jesus with questions about anything and everything. They ask questions about life, God, theology, and law. You name it, they ask it.
In the book of Matthew, chapter 19, we read one example. The Pharisees — the religious teachers of the day — come to Jesus and test him. They ask him if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife.
Contrary to what you might think, divorce was at pandemic levels in first-century Jewish culture. And sadly, more than 2,000 years later, here we are struggling with the same dysfunction and brokenness.
We are all facing abysmal odds when it comes to marriage and love. And many would argue it’s because somewhere along the way we lost the plotline. We’re confused, at best, when it comes to love.
Jesus answers the question of the Pharisees, but not in the way they expected. He points them back to the plotline— back to the beginning. It’s from the lips of Jesus that we get our loveology.
Before you watch the video, take time to dig into the following question. Think about how it relates to you as an individual.
Just as in the first century, divorce is all around us. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone today not affected by divorce. How has divorce had an impact on you and your view of love and marriage?
Watch the Loveology Session 1: Love
Watch the Session 1 video. Take notes as you watch. What resonates with you? What concepts or thoughts are new to you? What do you disagree with?
- Tension between the world and God
- Fifty percent fail rate: Fear and insecurity regarding marriage
- Jesus’ view of divorce
- The faulty view of “falling in love”
- What is love?
- Deep feelings of affection versus active involvement
- Jesus’ example
- Rayah, dod, and ahavah
Discussion and Scripture Reading
Consider the few things that hit you from the video. If you’re meeting with a group to watch this video, refer to your notes and share around the group.
Asking the wrong question
Read Matthew 19:1-6 (aloud in the group if meeting as a group). Then answer the questions that follow.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. - Matthew 19:1-6 NIV
1. As always, the Pharisees are trying to posture and corner Jesus with a challenging question. How does Jesus respond to their question about divorce?
2. Where does Jesus say marriage began? Why is this significant? Why does it matter?
Junk Drawer Theology
In love. What does that even mean?
“Love” is a junk drawer we dump all sorts of ideas into, just because we don’t have anywhere else to put them.
I “love” God, and I “love” fish tacos. See the problem?
The way we use the word is so broad, so generic, that I’m not sure we understand it anymore.
1. How should we define love?
2. How do you define the word “love”?
3. How does the world define the word “love”?
4. What do people really mean when they say they have “fallen in love”?
5. How is love as a noun— an emotion— not a full picture of love?
6. How do we know from the Scriptures that there is more to love than just emotion?
7. Describe the different words for “love” in Hebrew. How are they different from or similar to our modern view of love?
8. How does God define the word “love”? What context does he give us?
This idea of Jesus as the model for how we are to love each other sounds docile and tame and cliché, but when we actually read about the life of Jesus, it’s stunning.
There’s a growing trend among followers of Jesus. During their wedding ceremony, the bride and groom take time to stop and wash each other’s feet. In the moment, it’s beautiful and emotive and romantic. The groom slips the bride’s shoe off her foot. He gently dips her heel in the water, softly massages her foot while he rinses it with fresh water. He then dries it with a towel and puts her shoe back on her foot. The bride then does the same.
It’s an amazing picture of service and love, but it’s not quite there. You have to understand first-century culture to get the full picture of this practice.
Think dirt roads, hot temperatures, and high humidity. Think sandals, dust, livestock, and agriculture. Think manure and sand and sweat and stench.
In the first century, they didn’t wash feet for symbolism. They washed feet out of sheer necessity. And it was a nasty job. One that was saved for the lowest of the low. The bottom of the barrel. Only servants. Only the lowest servants. It’s hard to even compare the job to something equivalent today.
It is in this context that Jesus steps into this space. He gets on his knees, takes off his outer clothes, grabs a bowl, and gets to work. Scrubbing. Cleaning. Washing. The disciples didn’t take this as a loving gesture. Read the story. They were outraged! It was wrong. Downright cruel. There was no way they were going to let their master — their rabbi — wash their filthy feet.
9. Read the story from John’s perspective (John 13:1 -17). What does this story tell us about love?
But the stories go on. The Scriptures are full of accounts that give us vivid pictures of Jesus’ love for humanity. And seldom were they pleasant. One of the most graphic pictures of his love comes in John 19. The scourging. The Via Dolorosa. The cross. The death. All love. All grace. Life-changing if you can grasp the gravity and reality of it all.
10. Read about the Via Dolorosa (John 19:16-30). What does it tell us about love?
And then there’s the original picture of love. The unadulterated plan. God’s initial intent in all its innocence and beauty and grace. The Garden of Eden.
11. Read about the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:18-25). What does it tell us about love?
Where in your life have you been misdefining love? How does Jesus’ example change your outlook? Leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!