Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Till Death Do Us Part - A Thought About LOVE

I believe there are five key elements to keeping a marriage in tact and fruitful. Forgiveness is the first key to unlocking a healthy and happy marriage. And true forgiveness can only occur when we abide in Jesus and understand how much He has forgiven us. Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. The second of those five elements is Love. I want to tackle the subject of love in this article.
Forgive - Love - Trust - Endure Hardship - Submit
Eph 5:22-30 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (esv)
Many people I know who have gone through a divorce or are struggling in their marriage tell me a very similar story, "I just don't love my spouse anymore." Or they go on to say that the love just isn't the same as it used to be, that they are falling out of love. Now love can be a somewhat tricky and complex subject. We use the word love for so many different things. I love my new car, I love pasta, I love my baby girl, and I love my wife. All are a feeling of love and all are quite different from one another.
The meaning of love has become so watered down in marriage that it is almost undefinable. If you were to take five minutes and write a definition of what love meant when it pertained to your spouse what would it look like? It may include similar words such as adore or affection. The thoughts of sexual pleasure may come to mind when you think about what love means in your marriage. Words like passion, desire, and tenderness come to mind as well when one talks about love in marriage. But when it comes to love in the marriage relationship, what does the Bible have to say about it?
I think to understand love in marriage we first need to ask ourselves one question. What is the purpose of marriage? Some may say it is to have kids, others say marriage is for sex and companionship, and still others might think the purpose of marriage is to have a legal commitment so we have equal rights as couples for the benefits of health insurance, retirement, etc... Unfortunately every one of these definitions of marriage miss the mark.
The purpose of marriage can be defined in a couple of ways. One definition can include: marriage is to physically, emotionally, and spiritually unite a man and a woman together into a covenant relationship with each other and God. Marriage, as shown in Eph 5:22-30 makes it very clear that God brings a man and a woman together for the purpose of saying something about how Christ relates to His church. The wife, out of obedience to God submits to the husband. The husband, out of obedience to God loves and gives up himself for his wife. (Submission is not the topic I am going to cover here, but will at a future time.)
I understand that marriage can be quite difficult and the last thing we feel like doing sometimes is submitting, loving, and giving ourselves up for one another... Trust me, I have had my share of nights on the couch and even spent several weeks on someone else's couch until we could get things to settle down in our marriage. Marriage takes hard work and often times the only way to keep it in tact is to remember the fact that we have a commitment to each other and to God to stay together. I have never heard anyone on their wedding day say, "I can't wait till I fall out of love with my wife so we can get a divorce and live separate lives one day." We get married because we love and cherish one another so deeply that we can't imagine life apart from one another. Often times in our marriage the key to keeping on is to go back in our minds to that time when this person was the most important person in the world to you. To remember the feelings of love and hope that brought you together. When we take the focus off the financial burdens, the hectic schedules, our kids and our job and put it back on the things that made our relationship wonderful at the start, then we can begin to rebuild and repair the distance that time and lack of hard work has created in the marriage.
This may be a totally corny illustration, but love to me is similar to a gas station. We can dispense it for hours on end, but we will eventually run out if we aren't getting replenished by the fuel truck each day. Have you ever pulled up to the gas station when the fuel truck has arrived? All the pumps are shut down for awhile and the lot is coned off so nobody can get their fuel. After just a few minutes the station is up and running again and ready to serve... This is how it should be with our marriage. We need to stop what we are doing and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us up with the Father's love each day so we can go out and fill up our spouse, our children, and those we encounter.
1Pe 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: (esv)
So, how do we earnestly love our spouse each day without grumbling when it feels like giving up would be a lot easier? Peter tells us to keep loving earnestly. This passage relates to how we should love one another as saints, but fits perfectly in how a Christian man and woman should love each other as husband and wife. One of the key phrases in this passage is to "Keep Loving Earnestly." The King James version states it in a little different way, "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." To keep loving earnestly, or to have fervent charity, means that we are to show Gods' agape love toward one another with eagerness and tenacity and in doing so the sins that have been done against us will be more easily forgiven. When I think of someone who shows tenacious love toward someone the picture of a rock climber comes to mind. Each hand hold is planned and thoroughly thought out, where one places his feet can be the difference between life and death, safety equipment is in place to keep one from falling, and above all, a rock climber can never give up until he reaches the end of his climb.
That is how it is to be in our marriages. We plan out how we are to grasp onto our spouse so we can live in security with one another. We only place our feet in a direction that keeps us safe. Not taking a different path and breaching the trust of our spouse through unfaithfulness which leads to the death of the marriage. We are accountable to friends and fellow Christians (our safety ropes) in how we treat our spouse, and we are determined that even if we are tired, we can't see the next foothold or handhold, and the top of the climb seems so far away, we will never give up on our marriage. Knowing that our marriage is to display the Glory of God should be a huge incentive to remember that it has been designed for a purpose. Even if it is hard, God has put your spouse into your life to display His glory and if we believe He brought us together for a purpose then we must also believe that Rom 8:28 will come to pass in our marriage as well as the rest of our life.
I certainly can't talk about God's love in our marriages without going to 1Cor 13:4-13. This is a very common passage in the Bible about love and certainly needs to be looked at. As I was meditating over it I really tried to hear God speaking it to me rather than just reading the words on the page. In these verses is the key to how we can love our spouse in our marriage and not get frustrated, overwhelmed, tired, stressed out, and give up. When we realize that loving our spouse is not about us and all about God we are able to take the focus off of our self and direct it back to Him. We are to be a mirror of God's love to our spouse. The only way a mirror can reflect the love of God is when it is pointed toward God. When we point our life and devotion to the Creator of the universe and bathe in His love then we are more capable of displaying it back to our spouse. Some of the key words in chapter 13 are:
  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Humble
  • Rejoices in Truth
  • Bears All Things
  • Hopeful
  • Endures
  • Not Irritable
  • Never Ending
These characteristics of love can't be achieved by our own doing. They can only be accomplished by God himself working through us. So, how do we love our spouse the way Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her? By looking to Christ. By spending time in the Word getting fueled up so that we are able to then give back to our spouse. By keeping our path straight and not looking at others to fill our emotional or sexual needs but allowing God to fill them through our spouse. By being accountable to friends and fellow believers in and about our relationship with our spouse. And by most of all, understanding for ourselves what love truly means and no matter what, showing it, living it, and being it for the person we chose to spend the rest of our life with.
1Co 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
1Co 13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
1Co 13:6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
1Co 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Co 13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
1Co 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
1Co 13:10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1Co 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Father God, I pray for my marriage and the marriages of every Christian couple that you have brought together. If we live like the world and leave the relationships you designed like the world does, then what does that say about how we interpret your love? Please help us to be strengthened, patient, and loving in our marriage so we can glorify you in them. In Jesus name, Amen
I write devotions and stories for the purpose of sharing encouragement and God's love to fellow believers in Jesus Christ. I also am hoping that during this process we can reach those who wander in and see their need for a personal relationship with Jesus. I hope you will join me in this pursuit.

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