Love: The Center of Marriage

October 24th 2023

Love: The Center of Marriage

The many lies of Satan, and the unbiblical beliefs in American culture about the meaning of love, has had a disastrous impact on marriages. One of the most prevalent unbiblical beliefs about love is that it’s just an emotion or a feeling, something we looked at in Part One - Love: The Core of the Christian Life.

If you haven’t read Part One yet, I would encourage you to stop and read it before continuing, as it sets a foundation for our focus, here, of love in the context of marriage. In Part One, we see that biblical love isn’t a feeling or an emotion but rather is an action (1 Cor 13:4–7; John 15:13; Luke 6:27–36). Love is a verb not a noun.

Lies About Love in Culture

But what are the implications for marriage if we believe love is a just a feeling or an emotion? Well, if love is a feeling, then we can “fall in love.” Love then is just something that happens to us. However, if you can fall in love, then you can also what? Fall out of love just as easily.

Many people who are married will believe that they have fallen out of love with their spouse. They might even tell them, “I don’t love you anymore.” What are they really talking about when they say this? They’re typically saying that they don’t feel the same loving emotions that they’ve felt previously during their marriage. The logic is that if love is an emotion, and they don’t feel those emotions anymore, then they must not love their spouse any longer. But if love is verb, not a noun, we can choose every day to love our spouse in action, the way God has called us to, regardless of how we feel.

To make matters worse, American husbands and wives typically combine the belief that love is a feeling with two other mantras our culture is constantly preaching. You’re probably familiar with them: “Just follow your heart” and “You only live once so you should do whatever makes you happy.” This trifecta of satanic, unbiblical lies is a particularly corrosive assault on marriage, which has led to a tragically high rate of divorce and broken families in our country.

The Christian life, and by extension, Christian marriages, are counter cultural. Love is an action, not a feeling (1 Cor 13:4–7; John 15:13). The purpose of marriage isn’t to make us happy, but to make us holy for the glory of God (Eph 5:22–33; Rom 8:28–30; 1 Cor 10:31). Therefore, we shouldn’t follow our hearts (Jer 17:9; Matt 15:18); we should follow the Word of God (Ps 119:105).

Biblical Love and Marriage

A biblical marriage is much more beautiful, selfless, and hopeful than the predominant unbiblical, selfish, and pathetic views of marriage our culture has.  At the center of a biblical marriage is love. When asked what the Great Commandment was, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:37–40).

If the whole Christian life is an expression of loving God and loving our neighbor, then your marriage is as well. So, if you’re married, who is your closest neighbor? It’s your spouse. How well you love your spouse is one of the great litmus tests for how well you are loving God and loving your neighbor. Jesus left us an example to follow (John 13:14–15; 1 Pet 2:21); are you loving your spouse as Jesus has loved you (John 13:34)?

Are you loving your spouse the way that God defines love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7? Are you being patient and kind? Are you being humble and respectful? Are you putting your spouse before yourself?  Are you being slow to anger and quick to forgive? Are you repenting to God and to your spouse when you fail to love in those ways?

I’ve had Christians over the years say to me, “But you don’t know my spouse. It’s too difficult to love them like God calls me to.” Again, they typically say this because they have an unbiblical view of love. They believe that love is a feeling instead of a Christlike, one-way love of sacrifice and action, and they can’t imagine having loving feelings for their spouse anymore.

The reality is that we live in a culture, in which people allow their feelings to determine what they will and won’t do, and can and can’t do. The children of God, however, are called to lead with loving obedience to Christ regardless of how we feel (John 14:15). And, by the way, when we do that, our feelings often follow our obedience.

How Can Love Reign In Our Marriage?

All of this begs the question of how we can love our spouse like God has called us to. At times, I’ve had Christians tell me that they’ve realized they can’t really love their spouse until they’ve learned to love themself. Unfortunately, this is another insidious lie from our culture that seeps into the thinking of Christians. Nowhere in the Bible are we called to love ourselves, or to learn to love ourselves first before we can love others. Jesus didn’t say learn to love yourselves first, and then you’ll be able to love your neighbor (or spouse). He knows we already love ourselves and calls us to love our neighbors to that degree, which if we’re being honest, is a pretty high bar.

It's impossible for us to love our spouse in this way if we’re not walking by the Spirit (Gal 5:16–26) because love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. And we will only bear his fruit as we abide in Christ through his Word, prayer, and being connected to his body, the church, in a significant way. When we abide in Christ, we are empowered by his Spirit to love God and to love our spouse as Christ loved his bride, the Church.

As Christians, we follow a Savior who loved his enemies with a one-way, sacrificial, servant-hearted love. However, Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and, in fact, prayed three times in the garden that his Father might spare him from the physical and spiritual agony he was about to endure. Yet, he also prayed, “not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). Jesus ultimately led with obedience, rather than feelings, because of his great love for his Father, and for the bride he came to redeem. Therefore, as we consider our marriages, may we seek to follow the example we’ve been given, and love like Jesus.

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Author: Curtis Field

Curtis has been a pastor for 18 years. He has served in a variety of roles over the years, including being an Area Pastor, Pastor of Care and Counseling, and Family Pastor (Marriage, Men’s, Women’s, Kids, and Awana). He currently serves as the Associate Pastor of Shepherding at Redeemer overseeing the pastors and directors who lead the Counseling and Care Ministry. He is married to his beautiful bride Angela and has four daughters he adores.