“I guess I still love him, in a way; I’m just not in love with him anymore.”
How many times have you heard a friend say that about their spouse?
Maybe you’ve heard yourself say that.
Here’s a radical thought: why do we think “in love” matters more than “biblical love”? Why do we think that, within marriage, whatever we mean by “in love” is even all that relevant?
When the Bible commands us to love, it says nothing about what we describe as “in love.” Biblical love isn’t a feeling to be felt; it’s a commitment to be kept. You can’t make yourself feel anything, but you can choose to submit your actions to the will of God. So, you can choose to love your spouse if you define love as the Bible does, even if you can’t choose to become “in love” once again.
In this light, let’s consider 1 Corinthians 13, the passage most famous for defining biblical love. Just consider one simple phrase: “Love does not boast” and apply that to marriage.
Do you have any idea how often I hear something like this: “Look, I do all the housework, I get the kids where they need to go, I put them to bed, I work a part-time job on top of all of that, and all he does is sit on his rear-end as soon as he gets home from his 8 hour a day job.”
Now, if I was talking to the husband, I’d have something very different to say. But, talking to this woman, if I wanted to apply 1 Corinthians 13, I’d have to say, “You just spent five minutes boasting about how good of a spouse you are. But the Bible says love doesn’t boast. So maybe you’re not as loving of a spouse as you think, at least not in biblical terms.”
God might well be applauding her actions, but He clearly hates her attitude. If she cares anything at all about worship, she’ll lose the boasting. She won’t let her right hand know what her left hand is doing when she serves.
I had another wife tell me, “When my husband was 18, he got fired from Taco Bell for being habitually late. When he was 24 he got kicked out of college for never completing his final course. When he turned 30 he lost his job because he kept forgetting to answer his phone and was missing too many calls. He’s been messing up his whole life.”
Maybe so. But she is also radically “messing up” as a wife, because the Bible says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs” and she has a pretty long list (I’ve actually edited it here).
This might sound harsh, but where does the Bible say, “Love your husband except if he loses a job in college, gets kicked out of college, and is fired for being absent-minded”? I must have missed that verse. But the Bible does say, “love keeps no record of wrongs.”
Our lack of love in this biblical sense rarely concerns us; many times we’re not even aware of our transgressions. If I call a man or woman out on it, using 1 Corinthians 13, they are usually stunned: “I never thought of it like that.” Spiritually, they’re completely numb to conviction over their biblically described offense to love.
Yet if any of them suffer a lack of feelings for any significant season, they panic.
Sadly, most spouses are more appalled by their lack of feelings than they are that their actions directly contradict what the Bible defines as loving.
Please, go through this list and ask yourself, “Do I do this in my marriage?”
Love is patient. Are you?
Love is kind. What have you done for your spouse lately?
Love is not jealous. Do you resent that your spouse gets more consideration from their spouse than you get from yours? That’s jealousy!
Love does not brag and is not arrogant. How many times do you mentally think that you’re the “better” spouse?
Love does not act unbecomingly. This essentially means being rude. How often do you respond with sarcastic words and attitudes? How often do you forget to be thankful or just pretend your spouse isn’t speaking to you?
Love does not seek its own. Be careful about demanding that your spouse meet your “love language” or even your respective need for love and respect.
Love is not provoked. This kind of love isn’t irritable; it doesn’t lash out at someone with the least amount of provocation but rather remains calm and gentle and seeks to be understanding.
Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Does your spouse routinely receive grace or judgment? Are they built up with acceptance, or weighed down with your disappointment?
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. When you and your spouse disagree, are you more concerned about addressing your contribution to what’s wrong or to be proven right? Seek the truth rather than to be vindicated.
Love bears all things. This means we’re called not just to bear some of our spouse’s weaknesses, but all of them.
Love believes all things. Have you stopped believing for your spouse?
Love hopes all things. Have you given up hope for your spouse, to such an extent that you even tell him/her to their face that you know they are just going to fail again?
Love endures all things. There’s that phrase “all things” again.
Love never fails. If we love like Paul has just told us to, how could we possibly fail?
Notice, not once does the Bible say, “loves feels intensely.” Let’s stop worrying about how we feel, and start considering how we love, Jesus style.
[photo: Gabriel Flores Romero]