Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. —1 Corinthians 13:7
We’ve looked at the holy institution of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. We’ve learned that marriage is meant to be a lasting honeymoon. We’ve explained that poor communication is probably the most common area of marital weakness. In all this discussion, however, we’ve said very little about love, though love is the reason why most couples get married in the first place. Maybe Tina Turner didn’t get it when she belted out, “What’s love got to do with it?” but in reality, love has everything to do with it—at least the kind of love that Scripture so clearly talks about. Everybody wants love, and most of us spend a good portion of our lives looking for it. If you were to ask ten people to define love, you would probably get ten different answers.
We cannot know the role of love in marriage if we do not know what love is. Thankfully, as with every aspect of life, the Bible has the answer. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 in the New American Standard translation:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.“
Look at that last sentence: love never what? Love never fails, and never means never. I know what some of you are thinking: “Well, that may be true most of the time, but not in my case”; or “That doesn’t apply to me because my spouse is not a believer.” But never indeed means never, and there are no exceptions. Love done God’s way never fails. That is its first and primary attribute. Look again at the passage above. You’ll find no promise of goosebumps, pounding hearts, and frenzied emotions whipped to a state of ecstasy. The common descriptions of love that abound in our society are never mentioned. As the old DC Talk song reminds us, “love is a verb,” and Paul, here in 1 Corinthians, uses a string of fifteen Greek verbs to define love’s attributes, including what love does and does not do: “. . . does not brag . . . does not act unbecomingly . . . bears all things . . . hopes all things . . .” According to Scripture, these are the attributes of true love.
The attributes of love so clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 13 are summed up in Philippians 2:3: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (NKJV). The word “esteem” is the Greek word hegeomai, which means “to command with official authority.” This command of God, I believe, is how we can have a love in our marriage that will never fail. It is why Ephesians can command husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Since love is a verb, it can be expressed at all times by the fruit of the spirit of self-control.
Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.