“Do you love me?” “Do you still love me?” “Did you ever love me?” These are three questions that many husbands and wives have had to answer, some more than once. Granted, some may choose not to verbalize the question for fear of the answer they may hear, but that doesn’t mean the question isn’t being asked silently or out of ear shot. The rub is that the answer can and will change everything in a relationship. The good news is that when it comes to God, the answer is a simple, yes, yes and yes. The bad news is that when a husband or wife asks the question of their spouse, they probably already know the answer because of what has preceded it. That being said, I would like to suggest a question for your consideration that I’m sure is rarely asked in the midst of marital discord but may be much better one. “Do you know how to love me?” Now I’m not referring to romantic love or the love that siblings have for each other, no I’m referring to the love that will sustain a marital relationship for a lifetime. This is also the love that the man living at the homeless shelter was referring to that I wrote about yesterday. In fact, if he had asked me if I knew how to love him, it may have been more productive for both of us.
It is one thing to know the definition of love in this context, love that is selfless and sacrificial; it’s quite another to know how to demonstrate it. There is room for excuse here, in that many people have grown-up never seeing it modeled in their own life experiences, both in and outside the home. In fact for many, all they have seen or experienced is love defined in a sexual context or a dysfunctional relationship with a sister, brother or neighbor. It’s no small wonder that the world is confused and at times asking the wrong questions. Let’s examine the problem in light of the Apostle Paul’s writings in his letter to the church in Rome, chapter thirteen and following. We will also see how the sending of the “twelve” in Matthew chapter ten and twenty is related.
In chapter thirteen, Paul is exhorting his readers to submit to legitimate governing authorities since all legitimate authority comes from God. He speaks specifically about taxes, revenue, respect, and outstanding debts. But in verse eight Paul shifts gears and teaches, by way of analogy, about a much greater obligation or debt saying, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled (God’s) law.” I was a bit confused when I first read this verse since it almost sounds as if our “love debt” will and should remain in a state of arrears or at least outstanding, never to be fully satisfied. In fact, this is exactly what Paul is saying, that it is a debt of service that can never be paid in full and that we are to continue making payments for the rest of our lives.
This leads us to the first “how to” when it comes to loving your husband, your wife or anyone else for that matter. Our love is not to be limited in duration, but is an ongoing obligation for life. You often here the excuse for ongoing problems in a marriage that the reason its failing or has failed, is that the “flame” that was there at first, has slowly but surely gone out. I visualize a match that when first lit is useful and bright, but as is burns down the flame get smaller and smaller until it burns itself out and if not discarded quickly, burns the fingers. The reason the flame burns out is because it has exhausted its fuel supply and when held too long will begin to consume the holder. The fuel that is required to keep the flame burning brightly in a marriage is unconditional love which to be selfless not selfish. This is good to know, but realistically we all fail eventually, to some degree, when the pressures of a sinful yet tempting world pressures us and we perceive it as someone else’s fault and often it is our spouse who receives the blame. But whether it is or isn’t your spouse’s fault, your obligation to love them is not diminished in any way; in fact it may have even increased as a result of the conflict and things said or did but wish you hadn’t.
Chapter fifteen of Romans, verse five, provides us a “how to” to survive such a dilemma in marriage. Paul tells us that at these pivotal times in a relationship what is needed most is endurance and encouragement which only comes from and through Christ. But how, you ask? This is where the sending of the “twelve” comes into play and their mission to heal and to save a world in turmoil. First, it is an obligation, a payment of debt made by a husband and wife, to minister to each other when times get tough in their relationship. This is exactly what the disciples were sent to do, except on a larger scale. The power to endure and to encourage each other comes through the Spirit and by the authority of Christ, just as in the Matthew account when Jesus sent His disciples minister to a lost and dying world. If you try to do it on your own, you more than likely have already failed or set yourself up for failure, before you even get started. But understand that success in overcoming adversity through Christ is not for your benefit, although you will be the beneficiary. It is “so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 6).” In the end, it is all for the purpose of pointing to Christ as Lord and Savior.
This first “how to” is that first, before doing anything, we are to turn to Christ and our “Counselor” the Holy Spirit when it appears that love is in short supply. It is by His authority and the power of Spirit that our ability to endure and find encouragement is guaranteed. Once received, you are to share the love, endurance and courage you have been given by God with your husband or wife, as a payment on a debt you can never repay. Christ went to the cross for us, because we are unable to reconcile ourselves before an all loving God.
Tool #407 Our payments to God the Father for His love are to be made to one another.