This is part of a series of posts on the doctrine of Love. Click here to see the entire series.
(I presuppose C.S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves” in this section.) Eros is an emotion that is entirely derived from our bodies, our flesh. Eros has nothing to do with our souls. This fact can be proved by simply considering the fact that eros does not exist in the intermediate state and will not exist in the eternal state. Those saints who are now in the intermediate state are without bodies. As such they are incapable of experiencing eros. That fact is probably a part of their inexpressible joy.
The fact that eros will not exist in the eternal state is seen in Jesus’ response to the Sadducees in Luke 20: 34-35 where He says, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” I know that this reality comes as a terrible shock to all of those starry eyed Evangelicals who believe that the essence of heaven will be eternal bliss with their spouse. Hardly. There is no longer any reason or need for eros in the eternal state.
Eros is an emotion that is derived from the body for the purpose of bringing men and women together for the purpose of procreation. Prior to the fall it would have operated very differently in our relationships than it does now. However, we are living after the fall so we must take eros for what it is today, not what it was. After the fall all human beings became, by nature, totally and completely selfish. No natural man or woman ever thinks about anything other than himself at all times and in all places. This being the case, it is not difficult to see how a problem can come up with respect to the continuation of the race. Men hate men. Women hate women. Men hate women. Women hate men. That is our natural state. If we see each other as we are realistically, we can’t help but have a hate reaction towards each other. We are all truly despicable. Yet, if we are to continue the race, we have to somehow overcome our natural hate for each other and get together long enough to have sex. How is this to be accomplished?
I suggest that we must come to understand that eros is the physically produced, intoxicating drug/hormone that causes us to lose touch with reality enough to suspend our natural hatreds and come together as man and woman. Think about it for a moment. When a man (I can’t speak for how women think and feel) is in love, he says all sorts of things that are totally detached from reality. I have seen men describe the object of their eros as if they had never met her! I am told that she is his “best friend” when a mere couple of months after the wedding they are not even speaking to each other. I am told that “she understands me better than anyone” and then, a year later, he tells me that she does not understand him at all. I am told that she is “wonderful, loving, caring woman” only to find out later that she is a nagging monster that will not give him one moment’s peace. I am told that “our love is heaven sent and will last forever” only to discover, two years later, that it was more likely hell sent and already over. Eros is a deceiver. Eros tells the person who is subject to its intoxications all sorts of lies. Eros should never be trusted.
Earlier I mentioned the prohibition against any type of erotic touch. Without a doubt, the most common response from teenagers (and their parents) to that prohibition is to assert they are touching each other out of friendship or affection, not eros. In all of my experience I have never heard that statement uttered by another person and not eventually discovered it to be untrue. It is technically possible that it could be true but we must never forget that eros is the great deceiver. It will do anything to get its way. It will tell you that you are kissing and holding hands as affectionate friends rather than erotic lovers. It is a lie. Do not believe it even for a moment. It is a wise life principle to establish that anything you believe about your beloved, when you are in eros, is probably wrong. Eros is utterly incapable of seeing the truth and making informed, rational decisions. Eros should be the basis for absolutely nothing in our lives. Indeed, most of the time we should manage our lives in order to avoid it as much as possible.
Eros and Marriage
It should be obvious by now that eros is not a basis for marriage. The decision of who to marry is one of the top two or three decisions an individual will ever make. The decision to get married will have direct ramifications upon all of the life that is to follow. Given the gravity of the decision of who and when to marry, does it make sense to entrust that decision to eros? Yet, that is precisely what Evangelicals do. How foolish. No wonder Christian marriages are as dreadfully miserable as those in the world. When we begin on the same immoral foundation as the world we should expect that our marriages will end up on the same rubbish heap.
Would you make a decision to buy a new house by putting on a blindfold prior to visiting the house? Of course not! Why then, do so many believers make the decision to marry someone after putting on the emotional blindfold of eros? It is because we have abandoned the biblical doctrine of marriage and adopted the dreamy view of the world that marriage is founded upon the emotion of erotic love. Eros was never intended to be the basis for marriage (a catalyst, yes; a foundation, no). As in all things, agape love should be the basis for marriage. A couple has no chance of happiness in marriage with the absence of agape.
Ephesians 5 describes the duties of husbands and wives to one another. ‘Love’ is frequently used in this passage. In every case the word is agape. The foundation for marriage and the sustaining love of marriage is agape love. Agape love is the love of duty and fulfillment of the law. But Paul goes even further in his instructions to the husband when he says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” We see here that Paul teaches that the love found within the marriage union is to be the same sacrificial love that is to be found in the church. This is the fulfillment of the new commandment of love given to us by Jesus. Without the presence of this sacrificial love, the marriage is doomed.
Paul concludes this section of his letter by quoting Genesis 2:24 which says, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.” This Old Testament statement about the initiation of the marriage covenant is interpreted by him in a fascinating way when he says, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” This is another passage that is often ignored by Evangelicals. Paul is clearly stating that the physical union that occurs in the marriage covenant is a type of the spiritual union that occurs in the Church covenant between Jesus and His Bride. As he says, the “mystery is great”, but somehow the marriage union is to serve as an illustration of our present and future union with Christ. We should never lose sight, as we go about the day-to-day activities in our marriages, that our marriages are to point to and be an illustration of the activities that will occur in the eternal state when the Lamb is joined to His spotless Bride. What more motivation could we possibly need to treat each other with agape?