God’s Definition of Love

If we were to return to God’s definition of love as recorded in 1 Corinthians 13, if we were to put into practice the attributes of love, what a difference that would make in our marriages! Imagine your marriage if patience, kindness, and long-suffering were the norm and not the exception. What would happen if arrogance were banished, rudeness discarded, and provocation ignored? If you think that’s too tall of an order, consider again. Didn’t Jesus our Savior exemplify all those attributes of love and more when He walked among us—even all the way to the cross?

Dear friends, love cannot be fallen out of, only forsaken. Before you give up on your marriage, before you allow the devil to seize control of your thought life, before you surrender without a whimper while the enemy tears asunder what God has put together, hold up the mirror of 1 Corinthians 13 to see if you have been acting in love and thus doing marriage right. That is the gauge you go by—not the world’s faulty assumptions. If you fall short of the standard of God’s Word, commit today to living out love’s attributes, and then watch what happens!

Let me make one final comment here about love’s attributes. I know some of you are asking, “My mate isn’t a believer. What do I do? Does the same standard apply to me as applies to those in a Christian marriage?” Generally speaking, yes, the same standard applies. God’s commands are the same for each of us. However, Scripture does recognize the unique challenge for those married to unbelievers and addresses it: “In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives” (1 Pet. 3:1–2).

Though verse 1 says “wives,” it applies, of course, to men as well. The point is, living a pure and reverent life before an unbelieving spouse, or, in other words, living out love’s attributes, is an effective way to reach their soul and lead them to salvation. Your words will render only a limited effect, but your actions will speak much more loudly of your love for your spouse as well as the Savior you serve. That is the key to living with an unbeliever, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within you will help you to do even this great task.

Sometimes, however, a believer does everything possible to live peaceably and lovingly with an unbelieving spouse, but the unbeliever still rejects God’s ways and plans for marriage. What then? Well, again Scripture gives the answer, and again it applies equally to either gender. First Corinthians 7:12–16 reads as follows:

Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. (But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.) Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?

So, you see, love’s attributes will generally prevail, and we are called to live them out to the best of our ability whether we think they will work or not in our particular situation. I encourage you to read again 1 Corinthians 13 in its entirety. Ask the Holy Spirit to identify the areas in which you fall short, and commit to growing in those specific attributes. When you do, you will find the secret to the unfailing love that keeps you living happily even after.

Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.

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BARRY STAGNER

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