I vividly remember the day I learned about the 5 love languages. I can clearly picture the large classroom and see the teacher of the premarital course holding up the purple book. His exact words escape me, but I remember he equated love to currency. He stated marriage required making love deposits into my husband’s “love account.” Then he explained how deposits needed to be in the correct currency (my husband’s love language), otherwise I would find the love account empty when making a withdrawal (i.e. when I mess up as a wife).
I cringe writing this, because God did not intend love to work as a bank account! But being young, and naïve, the love account idea resonated with how we felt.
Plus, we went on to read multiple marriage books giving the same general advice:
- You are both responsible for making your spouse feel loved.
- If you keep each other’s “love tanks” full, you will have a happy marriage.
- If one person feels unloved, they will stop demonstrating love. As a result, their spouse will feel unloved and also stop demonstrating love.
- To end the “unloving cycle,” one person must choose to demonstrate love until their partner reciprocates.
These concepts all rang true with our feelings, but feelings can deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9). So we found out the hard way, none of this advice actually works. Yes it provided some temporary fixes, but mainly, it caused a lot of frustration (“Why isn’t this working?!”).
Eventually, I found the answer to our frustration; God did not design love to work this way.
What Does the Bible say About Love?
Love requires nothing in return.
1 John 4: 10-11 tells us: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
God loved us without being loved in return, and nothing we do can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39). Our love should imitate God’s love.
Speaking on the life of Job, theologian Miroslav Volf explained love this way, “You love God for nothing, or you don’t love God.” He used marriage as an example saying if he only loved his wife for everything she did for him, and how she made him feel, then he didn’t actually love her.
Our love cannot be conditional. It cannot depend on whether you feel loved, or whether you receive love in return.
No one demonstrates unconditional love better than Jesus. Paul even holds Him up as our example: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Usually I hear Christians focus on the “gave himself up for her” part of this verse, and ignore the “as Christ loved the church” part.
So I want you to think for a minute about how God’s own people treated Jesus…they rejected him, called him names, and crucified him. But He still loved them.
That is what it means to love as Christ loved the church.
Wives, you must also love like Christ. 1 John 4:11 instructs men and women to love as God loved; a sentiment repeated in Ephesians 5:2, “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Therefore, we not only love for nothing in return, but we love even when it is hard, and painful to do so.
“It [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a
Our love should flow out of Christ’s love.
Loving your spouse like Christ loved us feels impossible doesn’t it? Our own weak and imperfect love can never achieve such high expectations.
But God never intended for us to rely on our own limited ability to love. He calls us to love like Him because His love flows through us.
Paul described it this way, “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Full submission to God (dying to ourselves, and living in Christ), fills us with Christ’s love, which then guides our thoughts and actions.
When Christ’s love flows in and through us, it compels us to love our spouse God’s way…to submit, to be patient, kind, and not be irritable or resentful.
Only by allowing Christ’s love to control us can we fulfill the command to love one another as Christ loved us.
How to Love God’s Way
1. Cast aside false teachings.
Stop holding your spouse responsible for filling your love tank. Only Christ’s love fully satisfies.
Also, understand that showing your spouse more love and respect will not make him love you in return. Nor should this be your reason for loving. Only the Holy Spirit can move us to love others.
Do not misunderstand here, I am not saying information about differences in values and communication styles are not helpful. But rather, we cannot allow this information to define how love works.
God already defined love and gave us clear instructions on loving our spouse.
2. Seek God.
We cannot be filled with Christ’s love, nor find satisfaction in Him, unless we spend time in God’s Presence. Francis Chan offers great insight on this point:
“Our lack of intimacy with God causes a void that we try to fill with the frailest of substitutes. Like wealth and pleasure. Like fame or respect. Like people. Like marriage…The solution is to start at God. When we actually stare at Him, everything else fades to its proper place.”
So turn your focus to God and let Him fill your void as only He can.
3. Fully submit to God.
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:17)
Fully submitting to God invites the Holy Spirit to live within us and allows Christ’s love to lead us; we no longer live for our own flesh.
“He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)
Once we reach #3, the command to love as Christ loved, no longer feels unachievable because God equips us to do His will (Hebrews 13:21). Of course we won’t be perfect at loving like Jesus, but as you continue to submit to God, your love will reflect him more and more.
I know I gave you a lot of information today, and yet, I left out so much out. It is impossible to cover a topic like love in one blog post, but my goal for today was to cast a vision.
So I invite you to take a few minutes to picture what loving God’s way would mean for your marriage.
- What would it be like if Christ’s love flowed out of you every day?
- What would change if Christ’s loved controlled you (how you behaved, and even how you thought)
- What difference would it make if you stopped looking to your spouse for fulfillment and simply loved him the way Christ loved us?
Next week we will wrap up the Restore Joy to Your Marriage series with part 4 on living out the mission of marriage.