By Rick Cowman
Soon we will celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, and as our thoughts turn to the subject of love and relationships, so does the subject of this column. From the gospel of Mark, chapter 12 (verses 29-31), we see Jesus placed a high value on love. In fact, He told us you could sum up all the commands given to us in the Scriptures with one statement: “Love God and love others!”
Love is at the top of God’s “to do” list for those who belong to Him! Love is the very heart of God and it’s at the very core of what we are to BE and the motivation of everything we are to DO as His followers. Love is so important, yet all of us struggle with making love work in our relationships in life. I’d like to focus on one of those relationships, the marriage relationship, and how we can experience love in a marriage that lasts a lifetime.
The first step is to KNOW WHAT LOVE IS. You might ask, “Doesn’t everybody know what love is?” With fifty percent of marriages ending in divorce (even in Christian marriages), I’m afraid not! These statistics prove that “love” is the most misunderstood word in the English language. We say, “I love my wife” and “I love hot dogs”, but I would hope we means something different by each of these statements! As we are flooded with so many false pictures of love through the media’s perception of love, it gets confusing. And many of us had poor examples of love in our homes growing up. So, we all deal with misconceptions about this dynamic of love. Often we hear the declaration, “I fell in love”, as if you couldn’t help it or you tripped over something, and it was an accident! The problem with this is, if you can fall “in” love then you can also fall “out” of love just as easily. So, what is real love? Here’s what God, the author of love, has to say about it.
Love is A MATTER OF CHOICE! Jesus didn’t command us to “feel” love for our husband or wife. He just commanded us to do it! While love for our mate may have begun with some very powerful feelings, real love doesn’t stop there or it will likely die there. Love that lasts a lifetime is a decision to continue to act in a loving way toward someone, in spite of the way they may act toward us! Sort of reminds you of how God loves us, doesn’t it? In Colossians chapter 3, we’re told to “put on love” (vs 14). What does that mean? Well, when you got up this morning, you didn’t just fall into the closet and come out dressed, did you? Of course not! You made a choice as to what you were going to “put on”. The Bible says it’s the same way with loving our spouse. We decide each day to love them, to “put on love”, even when we don’t feel like it!
Love is also A MATTER OF CONDUCT! The Bible says, “Let’s stop just saying we love someone; let’s really love them, and show it by our actions (1 John 3:18, TLB)!” The Greek language has four words which we translate into English the word, love. The one used here is the word, agape. It’s an unconditional kind of love; the kind that sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sin and redeem us. And it’s the kind of love we are to have for our marriage partner! So, loving your wife (or husband) is a commitment to ACT in love toward them, whether they deserve it, or not. Love is a way you act. Actually, love is a verb. If we say we love someone, but continually act unloving toward them, our actions are speaking so loudly they won’t be able to hear what we’re saying! Get it?
Now, remember to love your spouse with actions this week!