“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.” (Commentary statements on self-sacrifice from the New Life Application Bible in reference to 1 John 4:20-21)
Does Love Demand Self Sacrifice?
Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated LOVE to us, in its truest form. Didn’t His love include self sacrifice? So, if we say we love one another, wouldn’t that include self sacrifice? We are told in the Bible to:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. But in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross.“ (Philippians 2:3-8)
We often have a problem when we’re challenged to love our spouse in a way that requires emptying ourselves of doing things our own way. It’s difficult to serve them when we don’t want to. But when we neglect these “opportunities” we miss being faithful in the little things that display our love for God. We miss the chance to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling“ as the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 4:8.
Opportunities for Self Sacrifice
Author Ellyn Sanna (in her book, “Romance in Real Life”) explains it this way:
“Our families are small communities. And within them we experience a ‘magnitude’ of opportunities for service. We’re accustomed to thinking of Christian service in terms that are nobler, more dramatic, more like Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta or Florence Nightingale on the battlefields of the Crimean war.
“But even for women like Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale, service boils down to simple assistance in ‘trifling, external things.’ This means things as matching socks, packing lunches, or wiping kitchen tables. ‘Be faithful in little things,’ Mother Teresa advises, ‘for in them our strength lies.'”
What God laid upon our hearts through these thoughts is: marriage is not about us. It’s about reflecting the love of God through our words. It’s about “regarding each other as more important than ourselves” in how we treat each other.
True Love Involves Self Sacrifice
Al Janssen in his excellent book, Your Marriage Masterpiece says it well. He says:
“Meaning in marriage is not found by pursuing happiness or self-fulfillment. Meaning in marriage is discovered by practicing self-sacrifice. …How does this play out in daily life? In much the same way it happens for an athlete. If a team wants to win a championship, every player must sacrifice daily by training and following the coach’s instructions.
“I have numerous opportunities every day to give up what I want to do and instead serve my wife. In this way, I glorify God because my sacrifice is a reflection of His heart and how He loves His bride. I’ve finally realized that my marriage is satisfying to the degree that I daily sacrifice myself for my wife’s good.
What does that mean?
• It means biting my tongue when I’d rather defend myself against something she said.
• It means getting up in the middle of the night when a child cries rather than pretending I don’t hear anything.
• Sacrifice means putting down my reading material and really listening when she wants to talk.
• It means taking over some chores when she’s got a hectic day.
• It means cleaning the kitchen Sunday evening rather than leaving the mess for her to face on Monday morning.
• Also, it means that when I’m accidentally exposed to porn while channel surfing in a hotel room far from home, I shut off the television. I do this because I won’t allow any impure thoughts to invade my marriage.
“One of the original purposes of marriage as God intended it in the Garden of Eden was to reflect His image. That means marriage is about something bigger than the two of us. Marriage is one of God’s primary means of speaking to the world. And the world takes notice when a man truly loves His wife the way Christ loves His church.”
Christ’s Pattern for Love
And then here’s something else that Ellyn Sanna wrote that brings out this point further:
“Marriage is an occasion to practice the gospel day in and day out. … But if we want our marriages to grow and flourish, we will follow the pattern for love that Christ lived. We will look for opportunities to lay down our lives. We will put our love into practice. In the context of our daily lives, this seldom means we literally give up our lives for the men [and women] we love. More likely, it means we pick up their dry cleaning. Or we take out the trash for them when they’re running late.”
Here’s something that Henry James Borys says that sums this up:
“A growing relationship means turning romantic love inside out. It turns from love that takes to love that gives.”
If you’re like us, you’ve failed many times in showing love to each other in this way. This takes real self sacrifice. But we’ve stayed “in the game.” And we’re thankful that grace was given for a “new beginning.” Did you fail in some way today in your marriage? If so, confess it, asking God to help you to do better tomorrow. And take it a step further —look for ways to out-serve your spouse. Show love through your actions “as unto the Lord.”
Steve and Cindy Wright
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