Love, Love, Love
The decision to get married wasn’t one I made lightly over thirty years ago. In fact, I almost bailed about a month before the ceremony! (I’m so glad I didn’t.) In yesterday’s blog I looked at the vows I took on July 1, 1978, and I asked the question “Do I continue to make the same decision today that I made then?” The vows ended with the phrase “to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” Today I’d like to look at what it means to love.

Our society has a very warped idea about what love is. In fact, Valentine’s Day itself helps to warp our ideas about love. While I have nothing against romance – In fact, I like it! – I recognize that it has little to do with real love.

1 Corinthians 13 teaches and reminds us what love is:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

What a challenge to live out that definition! Hearts and romance is much easier. Unfortunately, hearts and romance by itself doesn’t lead to marriages with steel spines and unbreakable wills. Love does.

This passage is often quoted at weddings. I think it’s more appropriate to quote it at each anniversary celebration. Let’s look at the passage in light of the question “Am I making the same decision today that I made when I married?”

Love is patient. Have I been patient with my spouse today? Have I shown at least as much patience with him or her as I have with everyone else I’ve met today?

Love is kind. Have I been kind to my spouse today? Have I shown kindness in the tone of my voice and the words I choose? Have I chosen kindness instead of crankiness or frustration or annoyance? Have I chosen kindness instead of nagging or pushing or taking control?

Love does not envy. Have I been content with the life God has given me? Have I been content with the way my spouse contributes to that life?

Love does not boast and is not proud. Does the phrase (or attitude) “I told you so” creep into my conversations with my spouse? Do I have a need to “win” – whether it’s an argument or a conversation about what’s for dinner, do I celebrate a victory (internally or outwardly) when I get my way?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Do I eschew sin and rejoice in God’s truth with my spouse? In other words, do I pursue the best things with my spouse – the things that God has for us – or do I drag him or her away from God and toward sin? Do I rejoice with my spouse when truth wins out?

Love always protects. Do I protect my spouse, or do I speak ill of him or her when they are not around? Do I absolutely refuse to engage in gossip about my spouse? Do I absolutely refuse to enter conversations that degrade not only my spouse, but men or women in general? When men tell demeaning jokes about women, they are disrespecting their wives. Likewise, when women tell demeaning jokes about men, they are disrespecting their husbands.

Love always trusts. Do I resist the temptation to be jealous? Do I choose to trust my spouse and his or her decisions or do I insist on being in control of everything?

Love always hopes. Do I look at my spouse with hope in my eyes? Do I anticipate the future with my spouse and expect good things in that future?

Love always perseveres. Do I do all of the above again and again and again? Do I make the same decision every day?

There are some hard questions in there, and I am not saying that there aren’t times when serious conversations are needed. There are times when I say, “Sweetheart, something’s not working for me. It feels like…I need…..” But those are discussions, not arguments. And they are discussions I have with my spouse, not with my girlfriends. Sometimes they are hard discussions and sometimes they end up with me realizing that I’m being unreasonable. Sometimes they end in a bit of a stalemate, and sometimes my sweetie comes to understand my position and tries to make changes in his behavior.

I’m also not saying that there is never a time to go to a trusted friend or advisor and ask for advice in a difficult situation. The key words are “a trusted friend or advisor.” Just one, not lots and lots until you find someone who agrees with you or until you have a consensus that 51% of the people you shared with agree with you. And make that one someone you trust to offer biblical advice and maintain confidentiality. The counselor who offers worldly advice is likely more influenced by hearts and romance than love that holds on with everything in it to protect and defend its territory. That kind of love builds lasting marriages.

I go to other places in Scripture for marriage advice – places where Paul prays for all believers to know Christ better. Tomorrow we’ll look at some of those prayers.

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