Dear friends, the summation of love’s attitude has nothing to do with feelings, but everything to do with forgiveness. When we forgive, we are modeling exactly what our heavenly Father does: “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (Ps. 86:5). Examine yourself. Are you allowing the devil to have his way in your home? Is unforgiveness in your heart stifling love’s attributes, hindering love’s allure, and quenching love’s attitude? It doesn’t have to be that way.
Hebrews 12:14–15 gives us the solution: “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Think about it. What do you love most about God? Yes, I know His omnipresence is awe inspiring. His omniscience, the fact that He knows everything, overwhelms me. And His magnificent omnipotence, His absolute and ultimate power and authority, forces me to my knees in adoration. But above all that, He is a God who loves. Before I ever loved Him, He loved me (again, 1 John 4:19), and because of that love, He was willing to forgive my sins through His Son Jesus Christ before I ever acknowledged that I wanted forgiveness.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiveness is the ultimate attitude of love— whether it is God’s love or human love we are talking about. What would God’s love mean to us if it did not come with forgiveness so total and complete that it is as though we had never sinned? No, God’s love is not partial, but full. It covers the multitude of human wrongs and joyously proclaims, “It is finished!” The debt is paid, and we are free to walk in God’s love and forgiveness—and to extend it to others.
How can we experience the fullness of marriage without the ultimate power of love’s forgiveness? I tell you, it is not possible. Husbands and wives, be the first in your marriage to be kind, patient, and long-suffering. Be the first to bear all things, to endure all things—even when you think your spouse doesn’t deserve it. Be the first to love.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” While we were still sinners . . . Our being deserving had nothing to do with Christ demonstrating His love for us, and it has nothing to do with demonstrating love in our marriages either. We are called to be like our Savior, and that means making the first move, loving unconditionally, forgiving without strings attached.
As I end this chapter, I’m not asking whether you are still in love with your spouse, but whether you have forsaken love because of the bitterness of unforgiveness. Maybe you feel like it’s too late for you, but I tell you today, love never fails, especially when forgiveness comes into play and is both given and received. Love covers a multitude of sins, and when undeserved forgiveness is extended, we experience divine love as closely as we can in this life. And the first place we should see this kind of love in action is between two people who have said “I do.”
One final word before we move on. Some of you may be thinking, “Not gonna happen, pastor. My marriage is dead. There are no feelings of love, and we both want it to end.” My dear friend, there was never a marriage more dead than mine, never a marriage with less hope than mine. My wife hated me and had every right to after all I had done, but our feelings, or lack of them, did not negate God’s plan. When my wife and I reconciled, she took a great risk on me, and the feelings of love did not return instantaneously. However, over time, the mechanics of love restored the feelings of love.
I want to let you in on a little secret from my marriage. Some of the terrible things I have done that I wish I could forget, my beautiful bride doesn’t even remember. Because they are imbedded in my memory, I write as though these things happened recently, but her love and God’s love have covered a multitude of sins. I know it’s true because I have seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. My wife and I are a long way from 1980, and we are both very different people from the ones we used to be, thanks be to God. We are now in our thirty-sixth year of marriage, and I am as crazy about her as she is about me.
Rest assured, my friend, there is hope for your marriage too, and feelings can be restored for you just as they were for my wife and me. Maybe you just need to take a moment and say “I do” again to the attributes of love. Maybe you need to reignite the flame of love’s allure. And just maybe you need to wrap it all up in love’s attitude of forgiveness. God can heal and restore any marriage, no matter how broken. You can live happily even after with the spouse of your youth—even after unbearable pain and betrayal have stripped you of all hope. I know it’s true because it happened to me. And if it happened to me, it can happen to you.
Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.