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December 10, 2008
Column #1,424
"The Love Dare" - A Marriage Builder
by Mike McManus

Brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick are not just Associate Pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA.  They also produced a popular film, "Fireproof," whose characters are largely church members, that has attracted 5 million viewers.  It is still in 499 theaters.

So, it should be no surprise that the brothers have also written a best-selling book, "The Love Dare," bought by 1.3 million readers. However, it is astonishing.

The subject of the book, like the film, is the fragility of marriage - and what can be done to strengthen it.  This is a message that Hollywood never would dream up. It either reduces love to sexuality, or, at best, has a message to "follow your heart."

A pastor has a more elevated conception of love. He knows the Bible verse, "the heart is more deceitful than all else" (Jeremiah 17.9).

The Kendricks dare you to "think differently - choosing instead to lead your heart toward that which is best in the long run.  This is a key to lasting, fulfilling relationships," they write.

"The Love Dare" was originally simply a plot device in "Fireproof," which is about Caleb Holt, a firefighter, who saves victims from burning buildings, but who can't save his own marriage.  He feels helpless in the drift toward divorce, until he gets a call from his father, who says, "Hold off on the divorce for 40 days," and gives him "The Love Dare" book, which outlines a new way Caleb can love his wife on a daily basis for 40 days.

When the movie was made, the Kendrick brothers had written only three of the 40 days.  Sensing that the film would create a demand for the book, they quickly wrote it.  Each day has three key elements:

1.  Each begins with an exploration of a unique aspect of love, designed to challenge the reader in very practical ways to think about what it means to genuinely love someone.

2.  Readers are given a specific dare, a challenge to love their mate in some special way.

3.  Finally there is space to journal how one responds to the dare, and then how one's spouse reacts.  It records progress.

Unconditional love is always promised at the wedding and is heartfelt at the time.  However, as marriages are lived, romantic hope is often replaced with disappointment as each spouse often builds a separate life.  Spouses tend to be taken for granted and feel neglected, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Result: half of marriages end in divorce.

However, "The Love Dare" offers husbands and wives a fresh way to understand and practice unconditional love. "Learning to truly love is one of the most important things you will ever do," the brothers write.

For example, they assert that love is built on two pillars: patience and kindness.

"Love is patient.  Love is kind," begins that most famous of all passages on love in I Corinthians 13::4. Are you naturally patient? Iit requires an act of the will. As they write, "You can choose to have a long fuse instead of a quick temper. No one likes to be around an impatient person."

The writing is often eloquent: "Patience, however, makes us wise. It doesn't rush to judgment but listens to what the other person is saying...As sure as a lack of patience will turn your home into a war zone, the practice of patience will foster peace and quiet. `A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute," says Proverbs 14:29.

"Patience is where love meets wisdom. And every marriage needs that combination to stay healthy."

Their Love Dare on patience recommends, "The next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all."

In marriage seminars my wife and I conduct, we go further, saying, "For every criticism, you need to give ten compliments." 

While patience sidesteps problems, "kindness is love in action," which creates a blessing for the other person. Everyone loves being around a kind person. The authors see four core ingredients of kindness:

One is gentleness. A kind person is sensitive, who knows how to speak the truth in love. Another is helpfulness.  A kind person quickly meets any perceived need such as housework.

Another ingredient in kindness is willingness, an agreeable spirit who looks for ways to compromise and accommodate, rather being obstinate or stubborn.  Finally, a kind person takes initiative, reaches out to others, and is the first to forgive.

"The Love Dare" is an ideal Christmas gift for any married couple or one considering marriage.

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