Meg and Peter have been married for more than twenty years. On Valentine’s Day, Meg went all out, giving Peter his favorite candy, tickets to an upcoming hockey game, and, later at night, she wrapped herself in a special outfit purchased for just that occasion.
Peter got her a card.
At the grocery store.
That he purchased on the way home from work.
He didn’t add anything to it, either. He just signed it, “Peter.” He even forgot to write the word “love.”
A couple of days later, Meg tried to explain that she felt a little taken for granted. Apparently, Peter misunderstood her intent because when, two months later, they celebrated their 22nd anniversary, Peter didn’t get Meg anything.
Meg kept waiting throughout the day, wondering when Peter would bring out the present—but the present never came. Since she had given Peter her present—some rather expensive fishing lures—she knew Peter remembered the anniversary. So as they got ready for bed, Meg waited in anticipation, but Peter slipped in beside her and promptly went to sleep.
The next morning, Meg was beside herself.
She fretted all day until Peter came home from work and then she asked, “How could you not get me anything for our anniversary? Especially after our conversation about Valentine’s Day?”
“Well, I thought about getting you something but it didn’t work out,” he replied. “And then I knew not to get you a card because you said you didn’t like that last time.”
“It’s not that I didn’t like the card. It’s that the card alone seemed a little sparse. But even that is better than nothing…”
Several months later, Meg had a birthday.
This time, Peter got her a present—a kitchen tool set. Several weeks before, Meg had asked to borrow Peter’s tape measure and screwdriver. Peter figured that Meg should have her own small set of “kitchen tools” so that she didn’t have to borrow his.
Meg recounted all this, then explained how she had tried to get her husband to read several “how to” books on loving your spouse, but it just didn’t interest him. He’d read the first few pages, lose interest, and never pick the book back up again.
“I’ve realized, this is never going to change,” she confessed. “But I love him anyway.”
That last statement of Meg’s, “But I love him anyway,” is one of the most profound theological statements on marriage I’ve ever heard. Most of us base love on “because,” not on “anyway.” I love you “because” you’re good to me. I’ll love you “because” you’re kind, because you’re considerate, because you keep the romance alive.
But in Luke 6:32-36, Jesus says we shouldn’t love “because,” but “anyway.”
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36
If we love someone because they’re good to us, or give back to us, or are kind to us, we’re acting no better than your average, every day, common sinner who lives without the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit. In essence, Jesus is saying, “You don’t need the Holy Spirit to love a man who remembers every anniversary—not just the anniversary of your marriage, but the anniversary of your first date and your first kiss, or who even remembers what you were wearing the first time you saw each other. Any woman could love a man like that. And if you love a husband who is kind and good to you—who lavishes you with gifts, who reciprocates with backrubs, who goes out of his way to get you time off, and who is physically affectionate even when he doesn’t want sex in return—well, you’re doing what any woman would do. There’s no special credit in that!
“But if you love a man who disappoints you, who may forget an anniversary or two, who can be a little selfish or a little self-absorbed—now you’re loving ‘anyway,’ and that’s what I call my followers to do. In doing that, you’re following the model of the Heavenly Father who loves the ungrateful and the wicked.”
Will you love only “because”? Or are you willing to love “anyway”?
Will you love a man or woman who doesn’t appreciate your sacrifice on their behalf? Will you love a husband or wife who takes you for granted? Will you love a spouse who isn’t nearly as kind to you as you are to them?
If you say “No,” then at least admit this: you’re acting just like someone who has never known the Lord. Just about every faithless marriage is based on “because” love. Christians are called to “anyway” love. That’s what makes us different. That’s what gives glory to God. That’s what helps us appreciate God’s love for us, because God loves us “anyway.” He loved us when we rebelled against him. He continues to love us when we continue to sin against him. He gives and he gives and he gives—and we take him for granted. He is eager to meet with us, and we get too busy to slow down and notice him. He is good to us, and we accuse him mercilessly when every little thing doesn’t go just the way we planned it.
But God loves us anyway. To love anyway is to love like God and to learn about God’s love for us.
That’s love, Jesus style.
Let’s love like that.
This blog post is an excerpt from my book Devotions for a Sacred Marriage. You can read more about this book and the options to purchase it here: http://www.garythomas.com/books/devotions-for-a-sacred-marriage/