The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'Love' letter

Not a feeling, but a way of life learned from others

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Dear Hannah, Marta and Lukas (my three children):

I no longer ask a certain question to young couples who come for pre-wedding counseling sessions. I don’t ask why they want to get married. I used to ask that question, and couples would invariably look at me as if I was some sort of certified dolt, ready for institutional life.

“Why, we’re in love, pastor.”

But that favorite four-letter word always came out as if poured from a bottle of maple syrup, almost in slow-motion. Our notions of love have been shaped largely by Hallmark and Cupid — whatever makes the heart go pitty-pat. Marriage in our country has fallen into disrepair partly because many have never really gotten straight what in the world love is.

Now that you three are in your 20s, contemplating marriage and (if your contemporaries are any indication) a possible long- or short-term exodus from church, I want to offer my take on this old word.

“Love is a feeling.” “Love is a many-splendored thing.” (What does that mean, really?) “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” What a pile of hoo-ha that is. But those trite sayings still hold powerful sway.

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