When we decide to marry someone, most often we believe we have a love for that “someone special” and they have a love for us that will last for the rest of our lives. We believe that no matter what comes our way, we can overcome it as long as we’re together.
That’s why we promise on our wedding day before God and all of our chosen witnesses “to love, honor, and cherish each other—forsaking all others—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do we part.” It’s our way of saying that we believe we have a love for each other that will never fail—no matter what, and that our bond as a couple who loves each other will only grow deeper as we spend the rest of our lives together as husband and wife.
• Do you believe the above statement to be true?
Wouldn’t it be nice if that would and could be true for every couple that marries? As someone once said, “I don’t believe that any couple who proceeds to marry each other ever walks down the aisle thinking they’re going to destroy their love for each other and consequently negatively impact their partner’s life from that day forward.” Do you? And yet we see all see this happening time after time, year after year.
• Consider the following statements and then comment on them:
The Bible says, “What a man desires is unfailing love“ (Proverbs 19:22). “Do you realize this verse is putting that which we long for in a capsule phrase for us? Please don’t miss this! Every human being strongly desires, covets in others, and longs for unfailing love—lavish love—focused love—radical love—love we can count on” (Beth Moore). Comment on your views of these statements.
• The Bible also says, “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?“ (Proverbs 20:6) How would you describe unfailing love?
• Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Does your idea of unfailing love sound anything like Paul’s description of love as described in these verses? Explain.
• The commentary note in the New Life Application Bible says this concerning those particular Bible verses:
“Our society confuses love and lust. Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed outward toward others, not inward toward ourselves. It is utterly unselfish. This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations. It is possible to practice this love only if God helps us set aside our own desires and instincts, so that we can give love while expecting nothing in return. Thus the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others.”
Comment on this statement and how this could be tied in with the marriage vows underlined in the first paragraph at the beginning of this study.
• Read the following as it pertains to the above verses in 1 Corinthians 13 and then comment on how worldly love differs from Biblical love:
“The problem with love is that so many people don’t have a clue what it is. Love is not a feeling; it’s an attitude. Basing love on emotions, as the world does, has caused immeasurable pain to countless numbers of people. It’s like building a sand castle on the beach. It might look solid, but when the high tide rolls in, the sand castle isn’t strong enough to hold up, and it washes away… The world gives love a staggering amount of attention… Love is presented as something to be ‘fallen into’ and ‘fallen out of.’ There is no solution given for what to do when the emotion fails you and the warm fuzzies are gone —other than bailing out and starting over with someone else.
“You can recognize worldly love by how unpredictable it is. The Bible offers a different kind of love. This love says I am committed to act lovingly toward this person regardless of how I feel. You’ll be able to recognize biblical love: it is patient, unselfish, and loyal. It doesn’t keep score; it assumes the best motives. It gives without seeking in return; it always seeks to honor God, and it endures through thick, thin, and in-between. Feelings change. Feelings don’t last, but biblical love is eternal.” (Henry and Richard Blackaby, “The Experience: Day-by-Day with God – Broadman & Holman Publishers)
• How does “Biblical” love differ from “worldly” love? Is there, or should there be a difference in how Christians love one another in marriage compared to those who don’t know the love of Christ and base their love on worldly values? Discuss the differences.
• Read together 1 John 4:7-12. What do these verses tell us of God’s love for us and how we should love others —including our spouse?
• Read together Ephesians 5:1-2. The commentary for the above verses says,
“Just as children imitate their parents, we should imitate Christ. His great love for us led him to sacrifice himself so that we might live. Our love for others should be of the same kind—a love that goes beyond affection to self-sacrificing service.”
How could this type of love manifest itself in marriage? Give some examples of self-sacrificing marital love that you’ve seen in others.
• Read together Philippians 2:1-8. We’re told that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus“ and then explains His attitude. If our attitudes were the same as that of Christ how could this affect how we treat each other in our daily marital lives?
The commentary for the above Bible verses says,
“Often people excuse selfishness, pride, or evil by claiming their rights. They think, “I can cheat on this test; after all, I deserve to pass this class,’ or ‘I can spend all this money on myself —I worked hard for it’ …but as believers, we should have a different attitude, one that enables us to lay aside our rights in order to serve others. If we say we follow Christ, we must also say we want to live as he lived. We should develop his attitude of humility as we serve, even when we are not likely to get recognition for our efforts. Are you selfishly clinging to your rights, or are you willing to serve?”
• The commentary for the verses above says,
“It is easy to say we love God when that love doesn’t cost us anything more than weekly attendance at religious services. But the real test of our love for God is how we treat the people right in front of us—our family members and fellow believers. We cannot truly love God while neglecting to love those who are created in his image.”
How should our behavior toward one another in our marriages differ from those who don’t have a relationship with Christ as their Lord and Savior?
“People spend a lot of time and energy pursuing love. There is a difference, however, between God’s love and the love that the world knows. If we are not careful, Christians can begin to adopt the world’s way of loving instead of God’s. The world says love is a feeling. When you stop feeling love for someone it means you no longer love them
…”Jesus commanded those who wanted to be his disciples to follow his standard for loving people rather than the world’s standard. Jesus directs us to love others in exactly the same way he loves us. When Jesus saw us hopelessly enslaved to sin, he didn’t say, ‘I don’t feel like dying on a cross for them. I think I’ll wait until the feeling comes.’ He didn’t say, ‘I have tried and tried to love them, but they always reject me. I give up!’
“Jesus saw that without him we would perish, and he acted lovingly toward us despite our rejecting him. His love did not depend on what we did to deserve it, or even on whether we accepted it. Jesus freely and unconditionally gave us his love. This is how God wants us to love others (especially our spouses). Not with strings attached, as the world loves. Not just love as long as they are lovable. Not just love as long as they appreciate it. God wants us to give our love freely and unconditionally. Only God can help us to love people in this way.” (Henry and Richard Blackaby) Comment on this statement.
• From any of the Bible verses and comments that have been stated so in this study—are you seeing things any differently now in how you should view and interact with your spouse? If so, how?
• “A good marriage is costly. It will cost you everything. And for that reason there aren’t many people who want to pay the price” (Scott Engelman). If a good marriage will cost you everything —is it worth it?
The question given above is one that only you can answer. But before you do, read together Philippians 3:7-16. Verse by verse discuss with each other what God is revealing to you concerning your marriage.
In closing: “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
End this time in prayer —praying with each other and for each other—that God will continually teach you how to give UNFAILING BIBLICAL LOVE to your spouse.
This Bible study is written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.