This week we conclude our series, “The Importance of ….” We have discussed two things that God tells us in His Word are important for us if we are going to have the marriage He desires for us—God’s Word to us and our words to each other.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” – John 15:12
This week we will study the importance of love to our marriages. Yes, it is obvious. Even the most worldly people know that, right?
In his lyrics to the song “Love and Marriage,” Sammy Cahn wrote: “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell you brother, you can’t have one without the other.” Well, the love described in the Bible is different than that sung about in secular songs.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides the world’s idea of love. It says that love is “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” It also defines love as “attraction based on sexual desire,” or “affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests.”
These definitions may be true and good for marriage. However, this kind of love is very much based on our feelings and circumstances, which can change at any moment. But the love in Scripture is different.
Paul writes often about love. We find in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” And he says in Colossians 3:14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Both of these follow a list Paul gives us about love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Everything he lists must be part of who we are to live the fulfilled life God wants for us. And they are necessary to have the joyous marriage He desires for us. As Jesus said in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’”
The elements of love Paul describes include compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, contentment, self-control, perseverance, selflessness, hopefulness, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and forgiveness. Wouldn’t we have wonderful marriages if we practiced these things? Paul ends both of these passages by writing that these things all begin with–and come from–love.
But this love is not just a feeling for one another. The Greek word translated as “love” in both passages is “agape.” It means to do what is best for another person, no matter how we may feel. This is how God loves, and, therefore, it is how we must love.
We read about this love of God in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We also find this word in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This is how we are told to love one another. Jesus teaches in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He says in John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” And in 1 John 4:11 we read: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
We are specifically told to love each other with this kind of love in our marriages.
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
There cannot be a Christ-honoring marriage without His type of love. And this kind of love and marriage can only come when we both love God first.
This is why when Jesus was asked what the greatest of God’s commandments is, He answered in Matthew 22:37-39: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Notice the order. If we are going to love each other with agape love–not just feeling love–it must begin with loving God. God then gives us the ability to love each other with agape love. Love for our spouses should begin with love for God.
We see this clearly in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he (God) first loved us.” God explains this more fully to us in 1 John 4:7-10: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
With this in mind, let’s look at some ways we can learn to love God first so we will then be able to love our spouse as He designed. Then we will have a life and marriage that will be far greater than anything we could experience outside of living for God above all else.
1 – Meditate on the impossibility of loving God and loving the world at the same time. Use Scripture to help you with this, starting with those already listed in this teaching. Here are two other Scriptures to use as well:
Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
James 4:4: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
We get in trouble when we try to juggle living for this world and living for God. In fact, it is impossible to put one foot in God’s kingdom while keeping a foot in the world.
God longs for us to serve and love Him alone. He longs to guide us into the incredible, abundant life and marriage that comes from seeking His kingdom above all else.
He tells us in 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
2 – Ask God to show you ways you have been living for this world. Ask Him to reveal to you ways that you are trying to serve two masters. This could even be that you are putting your husband or wife above or equal to Him. A Scripture you can use here as you pray is:
Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
3 – Confess any sin that God reveals to you where you are pursuing the world ahead of Him and your spouse. He promises to forgive you.
We read in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
God is loving and gracious. He wants to guide us to a life and marriage filled with His presence, love, and purpose. We must not remain in our sin and allow it to negatively impact our marriages. We must ask for and receive His gift of forgiveness and then repent by choosing to live as He instructs.
God says in Acts 3:19: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
Don’t you want that constant refreshing in your marriage? I know I do.
It’s vital that we constantly acknowledge both our sin and the powerful transformation through God’s love that’s available to us.
We must not allow our past sins and present failures to define us and our marriage. Not when God gives us the opportunity each day to receive His forgiveness, transformation, and healing so that we can live more like Jesus and have the marriage He wants for us.
Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
If we will receive the mercies available to us today, we can choose to live our lives so that we will have the marriage we desire. The power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us will help us do this.
We read about this in 1 John 4:12-16: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
The Holy Spirit wants to help us, but He cannot if we have unconfessed sin in our lives.
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Do not quench the Spirit.” Paul writes in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
How do we grieve and quench the Holy Spirit so that He is not working fully in our lives and marriage?
Paul answers that question by telling us what to do to free the Holy Spirit to work in us. He writes in Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
When we ask God to show us our sin so that we can confess and repent, we will receive forgiveness, healing and transformation. This will then allow us to have a wonderful life and marriage rooted in love for God first, and then our spouse.
Paul put it this way in Romans 5:5: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
The greatest aspect of the Christian life is love. Love is the foundation of all we are and all we do. As we focus on love for God and each other, this will allow the Holy Spirit to strip everything else away. What will be left is a blessed life and marriage that can only come from a relationship with our heavenly Father.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God has taught you through it.
♦ Since loving your spouse begins with loving God and making Him first in your life and marriage, ask yourselves if you are doing this. If you have not begun by giving your life to Him, learn how to do this here: Meet Jesus. If you have already done so, commit to making Him first above anyone or anything else. Do this individually and together, and ask His help in carrying this out.
♦ Re-read the three phases listed in this week’s teaching for making certain God is first in your lives and marriage. Are there any of them that you especially need to work on? Talk about this with your spouse. Ask his or her help to follow through on making progress in this area.
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Tell God how much you love Him. Ask His help in making Him first and always following His truth in your marriage. Ask His help in showing real love to each other in everything you say and do. Ask His guidance and strength in following through on the commitments you have made to Him and each other.
May God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the IMPORTANCE OF… series:
The Importance of Scripture to Your Marriage
The Importance of Words in Your Marriage
All Scripture is from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Eric Alves via Unsplash.com (CC0), cropped/text added.