Here’s a story about love in four songs.

First, a song from 1925 by Irving Berlin-

I’ll be loving you always

with a love that’s true always.

When the things you’ve planned

Need a helping hand,

I will understand always.

Always.

Days may not be fair always,

That’s when Ill be there always.

Not for just an hour,

Not for just a day,

Not for just a year,

But always.

What does “love” mean in this song? What was Irving Berlin saying to his wife? I commit to love you, even when times are difficult. And this isn’t just a fleeting emotion – I’ll be there always.

Now, a different view of love, from 1964-

You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips

And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips

You’re trying hard not to show it, (baby)

But baby, baby I know it

You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’

Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’

You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’

Now it’s gone…gone…gone…woah

What sort of “love” were The Righteous Brothers singing about? Certainly not the committed determination to do what is right toward someone. No, this sort of love is purely emotional, a mere feeling that can be lost.

So what happens when the loving feeling is lost? In the 1960s, the sexual revolution said, if you lose the feeling, that gives you the right to love someone else. So Luther Ingram sang this song that topped the R&B charts in 1972-

Your friends tell you there’s no future

in loving a married man

If I can’t see you when I want to

I’ll see you when I can

If loving you is wrong I don’t want to be right

If loving you is wrong I don’t want to be right

We determine what is right on the basis of reason, and we commit to it through our will. But if love is simply a feeling, no amount of reasoned reflection on right or wrong matters. The song goes on to ask-

Am I wrong to fall so deeply in love with you

knowing I got a wife and two little children

depending on me too

YES you are wrong!!! A thousand times, YES!!! But when a culture decides to privilege emotion over reason, feeling over commitment, then a man with a wife and children won’t even understand why it is wrong to abandon them for someone else.

The only thing that makes this perverse understanding of love worse is when the vicious betrayal is set to a great tune. One of the biggest hits of my senior year of high school was Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love for You. It has such a great R&B vibe I never even listened to the lyrics.

A few stolen moments is all that we share

You’ve got your family, and they need you there

Though I’ve tried to resist, being last on your list

But no other man’s gonna do

So I’m saving all my love for you

Gonna get that old feeling when you walk through that door

For tonight is the night, for feeling alright

A man with a family that needs him? That’s no match for “feeling alright.”

There are many factors that explain our culture’s decline into moral decadence. But at the root of the issue is the definition of loveMarriage in the Bible is built on love, but it is a vastly different version of love than what is understood by pop culture. It is love like God’s love, active and sacrificial and undeserved (John 3:16). It is love that can be commanded (Ephesians 5:25) and taught (Titus 2:3-4).  This kind of love is not merely emotional. You can’t teach or command sorrow or fear – those are instinctive emotions. But biblical love is something that can be learned and chosen. It is not just an emotion. It is a commitment.

It is very easy to hear only the music of a song but not pay attention the lyrics. Our culture is singing a much different tune about love than what God calls us to. The great challenge facing Christians is not to be so seduced by the pretty music of our decadent age that we embrace its lyric.