Love’s grand finale


“Do everything in love” (I Corinthians 16:14). How can we do this? Go back to the best definition of love available to us: 

I Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).

Those who practice this kind of love minimize conflict because love is anti-rivalry. Playful rivalry keeps life interesting and fun but when rivalry becomes selfish it violates true love and destroys unity and community. 

A closer look at love

1. Love is patient: It is long-suffering. It restrains anger when provoked. Patience is more than passive waiting. It’s active restraint in the moment of provocation. God is patient (Romans 2:5; II Peter 3:9).

2. Love is kind: It reaches out in good will with acts of care and concern. Love not only patiently forebears, but through kindness, actively pursues. Loving people are distinguished by their kindness. God is kind — even to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35-36; Titus 3:4-5)

3. Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. Envious people engage in evil rivalry. The envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the envied. Enviers delight in evil.

4. Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to self. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It needs no limelight or stage, applause or recognition.

5. Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment dictates (Romans 12:3).

6. Love is does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.

7. Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.

8. Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered, short-fused people.

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. When hurt badly, this part of love is hard to practice.

10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: This rules out gossip, slander, and Schadenfreude (delight in the downfall of others).

Love’s grand finaleLove always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.

There is nothing love cannot face and endure. Four verbs (protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres) offer repeated emphasis on how love brings everything under its influence. Love is tenacious and faithful. Love is positive and hopeful. Love is brave and noble; it never fails.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Steve Cornell

7 purposes for marriage

  1. Completion (Genesis 2:18)
  2. Companionship (Genesis 2:18; Malachi 2:14)
  3. Continuance (Genesis 1:28) of the human race)
  4. Coregency (Genesis 1:28)
  5. Care (Exodus 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 7:15Ephesians 5:25-33)
  6. Communication (Genesis 1:27) of God’s image and Ephesians 5:25-33 – Christ’s and His Church)
  7. Constraint (I Corinthians 7:3-5)

Marriage is God’s gift to humans. It was given to resolve the problem of human loneliness by providing complimentary companionship between a man and a woman (“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24-25). As originally designed, it is meant to be an exclusive (leaving) and permanent (cleaving/be united), one-flesh relationship.

Jesus affirmed the original plan for marriage when he said, “Haven’t you read, 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. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

We learn from Jesus that marriage is intended as a life-long relationship (what God has joined together, let man not separate). Brides and bridegrooms honor the teaching of our Lord when they solemnly promise to love, honor and cherish, and remain faithful to each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death separates them.

Equality is reflected in the first marriage as the man and woman were created in the image of God and given co-regency over the created order (Genesis 1:26-28). For believers in Christ, marriage is a covenant of companionship between two spiritually equal human beings (Galatians 3:26-28). Yet equality does not eliminate roles in a marriage relationship. Nor do roles in marriage diminish the call to mutual love and respect.

According to Scripture, the husband bears primary responsibility to lead the home in a God-glorifying way. His leadership clearly involves authority and should be honored by his wife and family (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; 6:1-3). His authority, however, must be based on love (see: Ephesians 5:25, 33, w/ John 10:11-13; I Corinthians 13:4-8a) and thoughtful consideration (see: Philippians 2:3-5).

Scripture warns against husbands who treat their wives with insensitivity (see, I Peter 3:7). Husbands must never forget that they are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Cultural limitations or biases should not be placed on this command any more than on the command for wives to respect their husbands.

Steve Cornell

Dating and Relationship Advice

Dating tends to be a time when people conceal information that marriage will inevitably reveal. This is one reason why we need to guard our hearts and use our brains.

Let your head lead your heart

Do not give your heart to anyone until your head has processed the necessary data to tell you that you are making a wise decision. If you give your heart to a bad relationship, it will be very difficult to talk your head out of it.

Someone once recommended that we should focus on becoming the person that the person we’re looking for is looking for. Start by becoming the person that your future spouse needs. This will more likely lead you to attract and be attracted to the right kind of person.

Develop a mature understanding of love

When couples understand that marriage is not about being in love but an agreement to love; not about feeling loved but truly valuing each other, then they will find the path to deeply meaningful companionship. And (as a result) they usually experience the feelings of love that follow the choice to be loving.

One of the greatest obstacles to loving companionship in marriage is our cultural obsession with personal happiness as a fundamental right – if not, a sign of true mental health. Don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting we become stoic realists skeptical of pleasure and enjoyment. But I am saying that true and lasting satisfaction come from a refusal to treat felt needs as the highest priorities of life.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Phil. 2:3-5).  

Steve Cornell

SeeThe path to great relationships

3 essentials to marriage

When a couple takes the traditional marriage vows, they acknowledge three essentials parts to the relationship of marriage.

Marriage is a relationship of extraordinary care (I promise to love, comfort, honor, and cherish), sexually exclusivity (forsaking all others), and permanency (as long as you both shall live) between a man (to be your husband) and a woman (to be your wife).

1. Extraordinary Care

In the vows, a couple of promise to “love, comfort, honor, and keep” each other in any of life’s circumstances: “in joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health.” Couples making this promise don’t intend to care for each other only when times are good. They promise to care for each other when times are bad as well. And if, at the time of the wedding, one of them refused to make that promise, few would be willing to go through with the ceremony.

2. Sexual Exclusivity

When a couple marry, they promise to “forsake all others” and be “faithful” to each other—sexually.  Faithfulness in marriage is so fundamental to the marriage agreement that when the vow is broken, most marriages go into a free fall.  Infidelity ranks as one of the most painful experiences of a betrayed spouse’s life.  Anyone who knew at the time of their wedding that their spouse would eventually have an affair would refuse to marry that person.  It’s that important to remain faithful.

Affairs do not harm just marriages—they also harm children. A child also feels betrayed by a parent who cheats and then lies about it. Can you think of a worse example to a developing child than an unfaithful father or mother?

3. Permanence

A couple who marry promise to remain together “as long as we both shall live,” and that promise is essential to marriage for a host of reasons. The most important reason is that stability and continuity are required for raising children successfully. If a couple were told on the day of their wedding that they would divorce when their children were young and needed them the most, they would stop the ceremony. Even if a couple knew they could only avoid divorce until their children became adults, I’m not sure they would agree to be married. That’s because marriage creates interdependence — both spouses come to need each other in order to thrive. A divorce at any stage of life rips them apart, damaging both of them.


Infatuation or Love?

This distinction is worth conversation among singles:

“Infatuation has been defined as an emotional response to false impressions or mere externals of another that have been overvalued or lusted after. By contrast, genuine falling in love is a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical response to the actual character and total being of another who embodies attributes long sought and admired” (Ed Wheat).

See: True Love — What does it look like?

See: A delusional euphoric state of stupidity

Steve Cornell

Red flags in a relationship?

Last week, I asked more than 50 singles in my Relationship 101 class what would constitute a red flag in a relationship that would make you hesitant about it. 

I also asked what they would consider to be a “deal breaker” to end a relationship. I was surprised by the silence. They didn’t know how to answer the questions.

As I thought about this, I realized that when it comes to dating relationships and marriage, many singles don’t have much of a plan. They have not thought through a criteria or a “must have” and “can’t stand” list. We tend to go with the flow or follow our often ambiguous gut instincts. 

I tried to jump-start the conversation by offering one thing that ought to be a deal breaker. If a guy uses any kind of hurtful physical force on a girl, it should be an automatic deal breaker for her. The class seemed to agree. But other answers were not plentiful. 

In the resource notebook I give to each participant, I have fairly extensive lists of positive and negative qualities to consider. I include “must have” and “Cant stand” lists also.

Most singles could likely give more detail about the kind of car they want than the kind of mate they’re looking for. Perhaps some are following the well-intentioned but misguided advice that “you’ll just know when it’s the right one.”

When you realize how little thought often goes into the marriage decision, it’s not too surprising that over 200,000 marriages a year end in divorce before reaching their third anniversary. 

Let’s be more careful in the way we make one of the biggest and most life-changing decisions!

If you would like a copy of the lists I offer, contact me at 

As a starter, consider this list:

20 Questions About “The Right One”                                       

  1. Can you talk ?
  2. Can you play?
  3. Can you work together?
  4. Do you have mutual friends?
  5. Are you proud of each other?
  6. Are you intellectually on the same level?
  7. Do you have common interests?
  8. Do you share the same values – honesty, cleanliness, Church, roles?
  9. Do you feel comfortable with how you make decisions together?
  10. Do you help each other emotionally?
  11. Do you have absolute trust in each other?
  12. Are you more creative and energetic because of each other?
  13. Do you help each other grow closer to God?
  14. Can we accept and appreciate each other’s family?
  15. Do you have unresolved relationships in your past?
  16. Is sex under control?
  17. Have you spent enough time together?
  18. Have you fought and forgiven?
  19. Have you talked about each area of your future life?
  20. Have you had counseling?

Steve Cornell

A delusional euphoric state of stupidity

Emotional attraction is powerful and can be dangerous. It can induce drug-like feelings of euphoria that come with a blinding effect on otherwise intelligent people.

Be careful not to overdose on emotional love because it has a potency that can take you into a delusional state of stupidity.

Although most relationships that lead to marriage begin with high doses of this dimension of love, emotions don’t last long and they always change.

Women tend to be especially vulnerable to this when allow themselves to be in love with the idea of being in loveThey’ve dreamed of a wedding and marriage; a husband and a family. But (I am quick to remind them) it’s one thing to be in love — an entirely different thing to love someone for life. Emotions dissipate quickly in the routines and challenges of life together.

The danger with emotional love is that it can lead very bright people into a delusional euphoric state of stupidity.

Have you ever witnessed this in a friend? It’s tough to watch a friend become overly and irrationally obsessed with another person — especially when you see red flags about the relationship.

The delusional part is often in the irrational thinking about knowing the other person well when you’ve only known him for a short time. Or, when you think that she is just perfect and can’t see any flaws in her. It’s delusional when you let yourself think that you could never be happy without the other person and that you have to be together all the time to be happy.

This kind of euphoric state (often called the “in love” experience) tends to come with a number of superficial opinions based limited exposure and hasty conclusions. People in this “in love experience” typically exaggerate similarities and good qualities while overlooking differences.

When caring friends or family express concern, the delusional lover doesn’t tend to hear them or claims that, “You just don’t know him as well as I do.” But the euphoria of love can move from delusional to dangerous when people are unable or unwilling to see red flags.

Advice – Let your head lead your heart.

Let your head lead your heart when it comes to relationships. Use your brain! Don’t give your heart to anyone until your head has processed the necessary data to tell you that you are making a wise decision. If you give your heart to a bad relationship and I try to talk your head out of it, no matter how much I might make sense, I will probably not be very successful. 

Emotional love is a natural part of human attraction, but we must not allow it to lead to a delusional euphoric state of stupidity. No matter how good it feels, always be aware that it can produce a blinding effect that hinders rational and wise decision-making. It can also lead to profound disappointment and perhaps even contribute to divorce.

Although people who are “in love” tend to think that the feelings will never change, studies show that the euphoria diminishes early in marriage. This often comes as a surprise or even a shock to the delusional lover. When feelings fade and differences emerge, conflicts become a reality. Delusional lovers often don’t have a plan for resolving conflicts because they don’t think they’ll have any. This is why they tend to be unrealistically traumatized by conflicts.

When this reality hits, it can make people wonder what they were thinking or why their partner changed. “I didn’t see this side to him or her when we were dating.” they tell me. I gently remind them that sides to people don’t appear out of no where. Character traits are typically cut in deep channels with extended histories. So either he was concealing or you weren’t looking — probably both!

Remember that dating often tends to be a time when people conceal information that marriage will inevitably reveal. This is why we must guard our hearts and use our brains.

Someone once recommended that we should focus on becoming the person that the person we’re looking for is looking for. Start first by becoming the person that your future spouse needs. This will more likely lead you to attract and be attracted to the right kind of person. 

We also need a more mature understanding of love. Emotional love tends to be more selfish, more about how I like to feel. Those who are obsessed with emotional love reveal their immaturity.

Immature people are not going to enjoy deep companionship in a functionally healthy marriage. Perhaps the best advice an emotionally obsessed person can hear is that it’s time to grow up and stop making life about your feelings.

The emotional dimension of love (no matter how natural) is not enough to sustain a meaningful and lasting relationship. It’s far too superficial. Deeply satisfying relationships are built on the dimension of love I call “behaving in love.”

This dimension does not depend on feelings and chemistry. It’s based on a choice to value my mate and seek his or her best. It’s a daily decision to respond to my mate in a loving manner — regardless of feelings. While I can’t always make myself feel a certain way, I can always choose to act in a loving way.

Most marriages start with higher doses of emotional love and, in most relationships, the feelings diminish with time. When this happens, the key to love  is not pursuit of feelings — but a choice to act in love even when we don’t feel love. And what I’ve learned is that the feelings often follow the actions.

I am not advocating dishonesty about feelings but a priority on and enjoyment of a more mature approach to love. Marriage is not about feeling love but an agreement to love.

Steve Cornell

See also:

12 Tests of Love

“I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!” (Buddy the elf). But how can you know if it’s love or some kind of counterfeit emotion?

Here’s a helpful check list to distinguish love from infatuation.

  1. Test of Time – Love benefits and grows through time; infatuation ebbs and diminishes with time.
  2. Test of Knowledge – Love grows out of an appraisal of all the known characteristics of the other person. Infatuation may grow out of an acquaintance with only one of these characteristics known about the other person.
  3. Test of Focus – Genuine love is other-person centered. Infatuation is self-centered.
  4. Test of Singularity – Genuine love is focused on only one person. An infatuated individual may be “in love” with two or more persons simultaneously.
  5. Test of Security – Genuine love requires and fosters a sense of security and feelings of trust. An infatuated individual seems to have a blind sense of security.
  6. Test of Work – An individual in love works for the other person for his or her mutual benefit. By contrast, an infatuated person loses his or her ambition, appetite, and interests in everyday affairs.
  7. Test of Problem Solving – A couple in love faces problems frankly and tries to solve them. Infatuated people tend to disregard or try to ignore problems.
  8. Test of Distance – Love knows the importance of distance. Infatuation imagines love to be intense closeness, 24/7, all the time.
  9. Test of Physical Attraction – Physical attraction is a relatively small part of love, but it is a central focus of infatuation. (Now don’t read “small part” as “not a part” in what I just stated. If your heart doesn’t skip a beat now and then and you don’t feel real attraction for your mate or the person you plan to marry, I’d call that a problem. In contrast, when couples who are in genuine love have any physical contact, it tends to have special meaning as well as pleasure. Couples often communicate volumes through looks. These tend to express what they feel toward each other.)
  10. Test of Affection – In love affection is expressed later in the relationship, involving the external expression of the physical attraction we just described. In infatuation affection is expressed earlier, sometimes at the beginning.
  11. Test of Stability - Love tends to endure. Infatuation may change suddenly and unpredictably.
  12. Test of Delayed Gratification – A couple in genuine love in not indifferent to the timing of their wedding, but they do not feel an irresistible drive toward it. An infatuated couple tends to feel an urge to get married – instantly. Postponement for the infatuated is intolerable.

(from – Chip Ingram,  Love, Sex & Lasting Relationships

See also - How can we know what love is?

Relationship 101 Class (audio)

For more than 20 years, I’ve been teaching a class to help singles with one of the most important decisions of life: How to choose a mate.

We’ve had about a thousand singles take this class! To get a taste of what I teach, I recorded the third session from last Sunday evening.

4 Bases for Attraction

  1. Looks
  2. Personality
  3. Common interests
  4. Shared beliefs, values and priorities

Stages of relationship

Acquaintance > Friendship > Dating > Exclusive relationship > Engaged > Married

Steve Cornell

God wants to use marriage to change you

Just wrapped up premarital counseling with a couple getting married this fall. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with hundreds of couples over the years as they prepare for marriage.

One thing I’ve been placing more emphasis on is the need to recognize how God wants to use husbands and wives as instruments of positive change in their mate’s life. No one will have closer access to your mate than you.

I am trying to get husbands and wives to embrace this reality and to leverage closeness and access to each other for ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ (II Corinthians 3:18).

Christlikeness is what God is producing in those who belong to Him — a restoration to the glory of the image of God from which we have fallen (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 3:23; 8:29). Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25).

When God ordained marriage it was for completion of one individual with another. Something was missing. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” So God said,  “I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18). “Helper” and “suitable” are not demeaning terms but beautiful descriptions pointing to the complementary way a woman brings completeness to a man.

The woman was created for the man (I Corinthians 11:9).

She filled up what was missing. None of this implies inferiority for she too is made in the image of God and shares a call to co-regency with the man (Genesis 1:28).

“Woman is the glory of man” (I Corinthians 11:7).

Her union with man fills up what is lacking. She is a “helper” or a “support to him” but this relationship and role does not imply inferiority (see: Galatians 3:28).

Marriage is made up of two unique individuals and loss of uniqueness in either could hurt the purpose of their companionship and completion.

But emphasis on oneness or male leadership should never lead to the disappearance of a woman into the dominance of the man. Nor should male passivity be permitted behind the dominance of the woman. Either approach would violate the original purpose of a complimentary completion. It’s also significant that the man is the one given primary responsibility to forge the bond with his wife (Genesis 2:24). 

Marriage is a bonding of two individual identities into one new relationship. Like the different colors of sand in a sand ceremony, each one brings individual significance, gifts and beauty to the relationship of marriage. Each one is meant to be God’s instrument of ongoing transformation in the life of the other?

Can it work?

Husbands and wives must be secure in their love for each other for this plan to work. When I am convinced that my wife genuinely desires what is best for me according to God’s will, I am secure enough to allow her to speak into my life.  

Where there is rivalry and competition for control and superiority, there are deeper spiritual issues of immaturity to be addressed. Only as we walk by the Spirit with the mind of Christ can we leverage the closeness for ongoing transformation of our lives through marriage (Galatians 5:13-26; Philippians 2:3-10).

Question for discussion: How have you seen this work in your marriage?

Audio messageWhen Two Become One

Steve Cornell