How Do I Love? (2/14/2016)

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Maintaining a happy and healthy marriage is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do. We’re full of love, forgiveness and optimism when we say “I do” and we think our marriages will always be like this. While marriages can and should always have these qualities, the simple truth is our attitudes and feelings can change as the years go by. The pressures of careers, children, finances and getting older put new stresses on relationships. This can cause love, forgiveness and optimism to erode and be replaced with some selfishness, complacency and perhaps even a little bitterness. One of the reasons this happens is because of the way our relationships develop. When we’re dating, we are typically on our best behavior. Many people even try to hide some of their little flaws and imperfections from the other person. Once we’re married and living together, the truth comes out. We realize the person we married isn’t quite as perfect as we may have originally thought. As a saying from an anonymous author states, “Love is blind, and marriage is the eye-opener.” This brings us to an interesting question. Once the realities of life set in, should I assume taking my spouse for granted and allowing our marriage to plateau or even decline is normal? We see it happen with many of the couples around us. Does it have to happen in our marriages? We just celebrated Valentine’s Day. This is special to many couples because it’s a day where we show our love with cards, candy, gifts and perhaps even a romantic weekend away with our spouse. What exactly does it mean to be someone’s valentine? One definition says a valentine is “the object of one’s affection.” According to this definition, Valentine’s Day is a day where we are to unselfishly give of ourselves to please the person to whom we want to show our affection. On this day, it’s about loving the other person. It’s not about “me.” We show this attitude on Valentine’s Day and when we’re newlyweds. Do we also unselfishly give of ourselves to our spouse throughout the rest of the year and as our married years together grow in number? Or do we allow pride and selfishness to affect our relationship? Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” We’ve all seen this happen to other people. They allow their stubborn pride to get them into trouble. Yet we either forget or choose to ignore the fact our pride can put a big strain on our marriage relationships.

Pride is defined as “a haughty attitude shown by someone who believes, often unjustifiably, that he or she is better than others.” At this point you may be thinking, “What do you mean? I don’t think I’m better than my wife or husband.” While we usually don’t say we’re better than our spouse, if we’re not careful, we may act like it. One example is when we refuse to help our spouse do something because he or she did something that was hurtful to us. The unfortunate truth is that pride is a result of the fact we’re born with a sinful nature and it can affect our relationships, especially our marriages. Our pride can keep us from making the other person the true object of our affection. The good news is we don’t have to allow our pride to come into our marriage relationships and cause them to plateau or even deteriorate over time.

1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love because God first loved us.” God shows his love to us by giving us salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This love doesn’t contain any selfishness or pride. As Dr. Wayne Grudem says in his book, Bible Doctrine, “God’s love means God eternally gives of himself to others.” Think about the things God gives us because he loves us. In addition to salvation, the list includes food, water, clothing, shelter, guidance from the Holy Spirit, healing, deliverance, patience, peace and strength to face our problems. Through the power of Jesus Christ in us, we can love our spouse with this same kind of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us how we should do it. It says, 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” This is the love God has for us. This is the love we are to show others, especially our spouses.

It isn’t easy to love like this but it is possible. When you think about your marriage and the way you treat your spouse, how do you love? Is it with a love that seeks to put the other person first or is it with a love that contains selfish pride?  When both partners in a marriage relationship choose to show unselfish love to each other, their marriage will be strong and healthy whether they are newlyweds or have been married for decades.