How should a Christian view romance?

Western culture is awash with romance. Movies, books, and music engage our attention and our hearts with emotional accounts of romance. Many people enjoy vicariously living the heart-thumping, sweaty-hands relational wonderment portrayed in media. But is this romance actually good?

First, let's define what we mean by "romance." Romance is the initial infatuation, the excitement, the wooing and being wooed, the initial attraction to another that provides so much emotion and drama. Love, on the other hand, is the long-term commitment that binds two people together. Romance has its place, but love is what Christians are primarily called to pursue.

We understand what true love is by looking to God. First John 4:9–10 says, "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

God expresses the ultimate love—and romance. He does pursue us, He does woo us. But our relationship with God isn't always an emotional high. God's love is steadfast and it is for us. His love doesn't always feel good or exciting. But for Christians, nothing can separate us from God's love (Romans 8:38–39). Marriage is meant to be a picture of God and the church (Ephesians 5:21–33). The best romance comes with a deep and abiding love between husband and wife. When the foundation is steady, the emotional highs of romance can be fully enjoyed. When true love is present, romance takes on a richer meaning.

The Bible has much to say about love and how Christians should love others in the context of a variety of relationships. The Bible also has stories of romance. Jacob worked seven years to win Rachel, then seven more when he was tricked into marrying her sister (Genesis 29). Song of Solomon is filled with descriptions of romantic love between a bride and groom. God is certainly not opposed to romance.

However, romance becomes dangerous when we idolize it. Those first attractions and the process of falling in love is intoxicating. In fact, the same sort of chemical release happens in our brains when we "fall in love" as when people use drugs. Science tells us that the romantic sort of being in love can be sustained for about two years, maximum. After that, those sorts of feelings taper off. Ideally they are replaced with a deeper, committed love. But if a person becomes addicted to the feelings of romance, he or she may find himself or herself feeling empty and seeking another "romantic high" in an ungodly manner.

The portrayal of romance in movies, books, plays, and music often sets us up with unrealistic portrayals of romance. Our real-life relationships, sometimes full of wonder and excitement, can still seem a bit boring and pedantic comparatively. When we overdose on vicarious romance, we may set ourselves up with false expectations and needless feelings of disappointment in the real world.

Christians are called to make commitments to agape love. First Corinthians 13 describes what true love is. Romance can be fun and can be a good thing, but only when it is in the context of true, godly love.

James 1:17 tells us that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." Christians should seek God's wisdom regarding things of romance, and all things for that matter (James 1:5), instead of relying solely on our emotions, no matter how strong or convincing. In romance entertainment we long for the lovers to demonstrate selfless commitment to one another. We applaud the sort of heroism, vulnerability, and pursuit we see in romance. The truest heroism in love is giving to one another the same type of selfless, committed love that God shows us (1 Corinthians 14:1).

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