The lyrics to Belinda Carlisle’s eighties pop song, Circle in the Sand, picture romantic love as a circle that begins and ends with just two people. Carlisle describes a love that exists forever because… “I begin, baby, where you end…” In this sense, love as a circle is intact and complete, standing alone, without help from the outside world.
This sentiment marked a drastic change from the view of marriage people shared in the past. Historically, marriage was regarded as an institution existing beyond just the couple. Marriage and family took their place in the bigger picture of the church, extended family, and the broader community. But this view changed in the sixties, seventies, and eighties.
Carlisle’s lyrics also say, “Our love is all we need…” portraying an image of the lone couple. Romantic love was suddenly all about just two people standing hand in hand, armed with their love, facing the world alone.
This is so familiar that the significance might just miss you.
Before our eyes, a major shift had occurred–a shift that laid the groundwork for what followed since – a view of isolated love. Romance became individualized.
Today, our modern view of romantic love has, again, drastically shifted from what it was in the eighties. It turned inward. Love is a redefined, reimagined concept that is all about the individual: what you’re feeling, who you are, and how you identify yourself. The eternal “circle in the sand” is still there, but now it is a circle made up of one: me, myself, and I.
Today, the circle begins and ends with self.
Modern gurus tell us that love of self is absolute. You must love yourself before you can love anyone else, they say. We now evaluate everything through the lenses of inward emotions and inclinations, isolated feelings, and attractions. Many claims, “Your relationship does not define you…”, meaning it’s up to you to find happiness and contentment on your own.
But we know this self-love approach is flawed. We see evidence in the wreckage of marriages and relationships collapsing around us on all sides. What if the reason the divorce rate is higher than it’s ever been, people are more depressed, and the suicide rate is climbing, is because we define love wrongly in the first place…?
Love Is Not a Circle; It’s a Triangle
Contrary to the above, our relationships do define us. Most importantly, our relationship with God. That is the most defining aspect of our lives. We are not meant to be individual islands but to live in communion.
Marital love in the Bible is portrayed communally, not individually. There is, of course, an
individual aspect of marriage (we are not into polygamy!), but the most foundational part of Christian marriage is, by definition, communion with God.
Until we get this right, our relationships will continue to fail.
The Triune God
The relational aspect of God’s character is unique compared to other religions. God is, by definition, a communal God. He functions within the Trinity for all eternity, sharing love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When God created Adam and Eve, their relationship was intended as an extension of that community. No, Adam and Eve did not run off into the sunset together singing, “I think we’re alone now…”. They lived in the garden in communion with God.
So why do so many marriages fail? Even Christians often derive their definitions of love from the world instead of the Bible. Individualistic love–even individualizing romance between just two people–or self-love, is the opposite of what we find in the Bible.
Christian, marital love must be focused first towards God and then towards others, (Matthew 22:37).
Individualism brings its own set of expectations into relationships and, quite often, becomes the weapon by which they are destroyed.
Encountering God in your Marriage
If you would like to discover God’s vision and plan for marriage, or if this is all new to you, God has more for you.
God loves redeeming even the most broken marriages. Remember, the first thing God created after setting the stage, was a marriage. He loves Christian marriage, He invented it! He alone can fix it; He alone can establish it.
Is your marriage broken? Does it seem beyond repair? Or maybe you’re newly engaged, or just beginning your marriage journey and want to start it off right?
If you are interested in discovering sound biblical teaching on Christain marriage, please join us for our weekly marriage classes. Visit our website to find out more information or to sign up, and keep up with our DREAMarriage series on our blog here.