Some years ago, I read an article by Jay Adams in which he described a typical scenario of a married couple, John and Mary, who came to their pastor for counseling. While they didn’t announce it, or perhaps couldn’t even articulate it, nevertheless they came to play a popular game with their pastor called, “Stump the Counselor.” (Jay Adams, “Love is a Decision,” Tabletalk, February 1997)

As Adams describes the situation, we learn that John and Mary already have their minds made up about what they intend to do. They are professing Christians, and know that they have no biblical basis for a divorce, but they both want one. John and Mary reason, “Look, if we can get the counselor to sign off on our misery, and that in our situation there is no hope for reconciliation, then we can find some salve to put on our conscience and will have an excuse from this point forward.”

The counseling begins with John and Mary unpacking their sordid story, and with great anguish they describe how miserable their lives are. And by the way, they don’t have to strain the narrative, things are horrible for these two! After reciting a decade of bad road, John throws down the trump card, “So you see, pastor, there is no hope for this marriage. I haven’t loved her for years; there is nothing to build on for the future.” Mary’s chimes in, “Well, to sum it all up, I don’t love him—I hate him!” They sit back and wait for the pastor to attempt the fools errand of refuting their holocaust.

The pastor taking it all in, begins by saying, “Well, if you have no love for one another, I guess there’s only one thing to do.”

“Here it comes,” they think, “He agrees that we should get a divorce!”

Continuing, the pastor says, “The only thing left for you to do is….to learn how to love one another.”

The pastor’s words went over like a proverbial lead balloon and were met by outrage. That was not what they were expecting, and they couldn’t help but conclude that the pastor just simply didn’t understand, so together they spoke words to this effect: “Learn to love? What do you mean by that? Love is something that just happens—isn’t it?”

Adams concludes that this idea is a large part of their problem. If love were fundamentally a feeling, as John and Mary assume, you could not obey the command because feelings are not subject to commands. However, we are commanded by God to love. Therefore, love is a decision that goes to the heart of what it means to be a Christ-follower. We must die to self and embrace what we are inclined to reject. This would include any issue of obedience we may face.

Consider how the Scriptures set forth God’s call to express love:

-“God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16)

-“He loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

-“Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

-“ If your enemy hungers give him something to eat; if he thirsts, give him something to drink.” (Romans 12:20)

The common denominator is that love begins with giving which is where many of our problems come. Instead of giving we are often driven by self-interests that destroy relationships. What hope do we have?

God’s grace and help are available for those who ask. The marvel of the Christian life is that God gives what is needed as “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

While we might stump an earthly counselor, we cannot confuse the Wonderful Counselor. With impeccable precision Christ looks into our lives and knows the thoughts and intents of our heart. He bids us to come to Him to do in us what seems impossible.