Are Jesus’ words worth trying out?
Seriously: do you think he has sufficiently proven himself to you to the point where you owe it to him to believe he knows what he’s talking about?
If so, let me suggest a thirty-day marriage experiment rooted in Jesus’ new commandment, given in John 15:12:
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.”
N.T. Wright describes this love as the “self-giving of an entire life, minute by minute, day by day, year by year…What Jesus is describing goes deeper than any self-seeking, deeper than any self-serving. It simply wants the utmost possible for the beloved, up to and including the point of giving its own life.”
Have any of us ever truly tried to love our spouse like this, upping the level of our focus so that we desire to love our spouse minute by minute, day by day, with the goal of doing the “utmost possible” for the one we love? Or do we simply write off Jesus’ words as an impossible ideal that shouldn’t be allowed to trouble our minds or prick our consciences?
If unleashed, this minute by minute, day by day seeking the best for our spouse would lift our focus from our disappointments and frustrations and re-center them on something we can actually do—lay down our life for our spouses.
Why just thirty days? It might sound too exhausting to say you’re going to focus this intensely for the rest of your life, but what if we said we’d like to try this for the next thirty days and see how it goes?
This “minute by minute loving” would address so many areas of life in general. For example, in order for a husband to be able to focus on his wife like this, he’d have to get control of any bad habits that are draining his energy and diverting his focus from his family. His temper doesn’t serve his family, so that has to go, too. And he’d have to stay aware of what’s going on at home, so for the time being, even some cherished hobbies may need to be put on hold. By focusing on what’s so right, he’ll lose so much of what’s wrong. I daresay, he’d become an entirely different kind of man.
Women who embrace this call to love their husband minute by minute and day-by- day, focusing on their husband’s welfare, wouldn’t have time to gossip about others. They will be too busy looking for and implementing creative ways to encourage. Rather than be distracted by office politics or so-called “binge-worthy” shows on Netflix, they will be moved to re-engage their minds to think about how to please their husbands when they get home. This can free them from so much life drama that seems to demand our attention but ends up mentally and emotionally draining us.
Before someone complains that their spouse isn’t fulfilling his/her role as a husband or wife, can they look at this list and ask, “Am I minute by minute and day by day making sure I don’t get side-tracked by social squabbles, don’t get addicted by personal pleasure, so that I can devote my time and energy to excel at loving my spouse?”
This love is urged on us by no one less than Jesus, yet how few of us actually ever pursue it?
When couples ask me for help with their marriages, they rarely are pursuing such a love. I don’t hear, “How do I help her heal from the wounds of her past?” “How can I understand him better?” “How can I bless her?” “How can I support him more?” Instead I hear, “Can you fix this about him?” “Can you get her to do this?” They want a problem fixed. They want to be happier. They want the other spouse to treat them better. These are understandable motivations, but they are still inferior motivations. They address the symptoms, but not the disease: we don’t pursue the kind of love Jesus tells us to pursue.
The “new commandment” given us by Jesus is that we love as He loved. That’s what it means to be His disciple. It’s a little shocking how few of us have ever honestly or earnestly tried to love like this. Trying to begin by loving everyone like this might be too much; but don’t you think God would be pleased if you decided to start by loving his son or daughter (your husband or wife) this way?
Here are some practical questions to ask if you’d like to launch this 30 day experiment for your marriage:
- Is your attitude, “Why doesn’t my spouse love me better” instead of “how can I excel at loving my spouse?” If so, think of how silly it would sound for Jesus to say of his disciples, “I do miracles for them, I teach them, I feed them, I heal them, I cast demons out of them, but what do they ever do for me?”
- Are you fighting to keep your addictions and desires under control so that you are free, spiritually, psychologically and physically, to devote yourself to loving your family?
- Are you minute by minute and day by day laying down your life for your spouse, regularly thinking about his or her welfare?
- Are you growing deeper in your walk with God so that you have more of Jesus’ empowering presence and ennobling truth with which to bless your family?
The experiment to start loving as Jesus loved, to actually begin taking this command seriously, may not be accomplished in a month (or ever, fully); but its pursuit will start to impact our marriages from the very first day it is tried.
Normally, I can’t keep interacting with comments on older posts, as there are just too many with which to keep up. However, for this post, I’d like us all to stick around for the next month or so in order to hear how it goes when it’s tried. If you end up with a personal testimony of how this “experiment” blessed your marriage, please come back and share it with all of us.