Wade, Jadyn (my oldest daughter), and I just spent a week at Snowbird Missions Outreach. This is a Christian camp where they focus on building relationships with the campers and teaching them to be in the Bible. No, that’s not true. They focus on building genuine relationships with the campers, and the leaders as well as the counselors teach about relationship with God first and how to always and first turn to your Bible for answers.
It was a week of sleeping in a tent, pulling a chain to get water for a shower, walking up a hill to attend meals and worship, painting on missions at a daycare, loud music, and loud kids. It was also a week of Bible reading, camaraderie and relationships built in God, hands raised in worship, heads bowed in prayer, and solid doctrine spoken over the group. It was such a good week! If you want to see Christ’s love in action, visit Snowbird.
And love is where I am today. Learning more about the love discussed in 1 Corinthians 13.
As I mentioned in the last post, I’m sort of going about this study on my own. Now, I’m no Bible scholar, so remember that as you read. However, I plan to use the tools I’ve been given in previous Bible studies I’ve done to help move me through this. There will likely be a lot of fumbling and messy writing, but it’s where I’m at currently.
Show me your ways, Lord. Teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me for you are the Lord of my salvation. I will wait on you all day long.Psalm 25: 4-5
This Psalm is my constant prayer each time I read in my Bible, and especially as I do this study. I pray that every truth I glean from opening the Word comes from God and not from my mind or the mind of whatever resource I find.
With that, I began very simply. I opened my Bible index just to look up “Love.” These are not all the mentions of love as I have come across many others as I’ve studied. In fact, a simple internet search shows that depending on the translation, the word “love” is used between 500 and 800 times. That’s a lot of love!!! Still yet, the simple act of checking my index was eye opening. There are forty-four mentions of love in my Bible index. Of that forty-four, fifteen are nouns while twenty-nine are verbs.
What does that tell me?
While love is an “idea” to be described as any noun is, love is also an action.
I know I’m often guilty of treating love like a noun. Yet, love isn’t just something pretty to sit on a shelf and be adored. It isn’t a decoration meant to make my marriage pretty when others see it. It isn’t something I should dust off from time to time to let it shine or something I should only point out and pay attention to when company arrives. While love is something at which we can most assuredly marvel, it is also, and should often be, a verb.
Love is an action, sometimes a difficult action, that we must make a point to take daily. So often, our society encourages us to give in when love is hard. “Turn to divorce when the love in your marriage isn’t fulfilling you, is difficult to give and drains you, isn’t what you expected it to be like.” Yet, at the same time, society promotes exercising and eating healthy telling everyone that while these actions are difficult, they are good for us. Society makes a point to tell us exercise and healthy eating do not work overnight, will not fix anything quickly, must be done continuously as a lifestyle, and are worth our time and effort. You know what? So is love. Loving someone doesn’t fix anything right away. Love isn’t something you do occasionally. It should be a lifestyle. It doesn’t mean that we will not experience hiccups along the way or days and periods that feel stagnant. Love can be hard work, but it is always worth it in the end.
After I looked at the Bible index, I noticed that more often than not, the Bible talked of God’s faithful love or instructed us to love God. The word “love” centered around God. How appropriate? Personally, I think that is the main takeaway from all of this studying. Love should center around God. After all, God is love, right?
But, still yet, I strive in this blog to reveal how to have a godly marriage. So, what exactly does all of this mean about love in a marriage?
What’s love got to do with it?
Can’t you picture Tina Turner with her big hair and dramatic makeup singing the lyrics?
You must understand though the touch of your hand
Makes my pulse react
That it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl
You must try to ignore that it means more than that ooo
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be brokenWhat’s Love Got to Do With It? – Tina Turner
The thing is, the world has fed us these words, these lies, to believe. Love is a second hand emotion and should be avoided or highly guarded because of the hurt it could promise. Many people enter marriage with these notions, and then divorce becomes an easy and readily viable option. And, I get the temptation. I understand the desire to protect your heart.
Yet, 1 Corinthians 13 paints a completely different picture of love.
1 Corinthians is a letter from Paul to the Church of Corinth, a church that has shown division since Paul left. It begins, as is customary for Paul’s letters, with a greeting.
Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosthenes our brother: To the church of God at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord – both their Lord and ours.1 Corinthians 1:1-2
This letter from Paul was written to believers. It was written to “those sanctified in Christ Jesus.” It was written to people who call themselves followers of our Lord. We cannot expect the rest of the world to follow the teachings in this letter, which is why marriage becomes so disastrous even for believers. We cannot follow both the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of the world while expecting our marriages to last. That little fact is important to remember.
Paul knew that the members of the church were having a difficult time following the teachings of Christ and his apostles. There was strife and discord among them. Not only that. They had specific questions they wanted Paul to answer, and that is where we find ourselves in Chapter 13. In Chapter 12, Paul had described the diversity of spiritual gifts and how each person’s gift was necessary to build up the body of believers. He ended Chapter 12 by saying “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other tongues? Do all interpret?” Basically, he was reminding the people of Corinth that not everyone has the same spiritual gift. Then, he goes on to say, “But desire the GREATER gifts. And I will show you an even better way.”
AND I WILL SHOW YOU AN EVEN BETTER WAY
That statement is where Paul is at the end of Chapter 12. So, we enter Chapter 13 knowing that it is going to be about that even better way, and Chapter 13 is all about love. Love IS the better way!
To be certain, there are different types of love. We use the word “love” in many ways today. After all, I LOVE me some homemade guacamole. Nothing tastes better. I LOVE the sound of rain on a roof when I’m curled up reading a good book. Nothing soothes and calms me more. I LOVE the look of a blank page of paper when I have brand new pens or pencils. That blank page holds promise! I LOVE a good belly laugh when I am with family and friends. I LOVE my friends and the way they fill my cup. I LOVE Jadyn and Emma. I LOVE Wade.
Do I love Wade the same way I do guacamole? Heck, no! I don’t love him the same way I do my girls or my dad either. In ancient texts, they had different words for different love, much more specific than we are.
The Bible references love in different ways. One way is an “Eros” kind of love, which is a romantic love. We see reference to this type of love in Proverbs 5:18-19, Hebrews 13:4, and more. There is also “Phileo” love, which is brotherly love, one between people who are more than acquaintances. We see this when discussing the raising of Lazarus and how Jesus felt about him. We also see “Agape” love, which is unmerited love. It is love that is not focused on the desirability of its object. Instead, agape love says that the object is worthy of love because the object bears the image of Christ, period. It is love that expects no reciprocity. It is a godly love.
In marriage, we need all 3 of these kinds of love. Often times, that physical attraction leads to a romantic love. It is the love Tina Turner sang about. There is a definite place for this love in marriage, but it is often the only type of love we consider. When it fades, or perhaps a better word would be ebbs away, couples claim not to love one another anymore. They say their spark is gone, and they just can’t continue on. Divorce happens. However, we also need relational or brotherly love. This love takes us deeper than romantic love and helps build lasting relationships that will go beyond that “pulse reaction” in the song. When you look at your spouse and don’t necessarily feel romantic but you still feel your heart pound because of them, that’s often the relational love speaking. That relational love helps carry us through moments where we don’t necessarily find ourselves in romantic love with our spouse. However, the thing here is, sometimes we look at our spouse and don’t even find it within our hearts to appreciate them with that phileo love.
When Wade wakes up as a grumpy bear swiping and growling at anything in his path after we’ve had an off week or I’ve been grumpy, too, I neither eros love him nor phileo love him, to be honest. In fact, I’d often rather throat punch him in those moments. I don’t. But, I want to. In those moments, the thing that sustains me is the agape love. That love reminds me that though he is a growling bear in that moment and I am ticked off, he is still created in the image of Christ. He is loved by God, and, therefore, he is worthy of my love. This love gets us through. This is the love that is in 1 Corinthians 13. When Paul is writing about the better way, it is agape love of which he speaks.
I can’t speak for you, but I hope and pray to remember that each time I hear that scripture read aloud at a wedding.
Here’s the thing, though. That well-known portion isn’t all there is in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul begins by saying:
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
Paul knew that people desired the “flashy” spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy, but he said if someone possessed those without love, he was nothing and basically just made a racket. Moreover, in Matthew 19:21, Jesus told the rich man to sell everything and follow Jesus to be perfect. Paul said in Philippians 3:8 that he counts all his possessions as nothing and counts them as loss in order to gain Christ. Here in Corinthians, however, he says that if you give up everything, including your body, but do not have love, you gain nothing. He is trying to illustrate to the Corinthians that love surpasses all. That it is the greatest gift of all. In fact, that is exactly how he ends the chapter.
For now we can see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love1 Corinthians 13:12-13
Paul exhorts the Corinthians to think heavenward. He wants them to grow in Christ. He reminds them that on this side of heaven everything is a poor reflection of how it will be. Early mirrors were not what we have today that many times give a great reflection of exactly what we look like. Instead, early mirrors were polished stone, polished copper, etc., and the reflection staring back at you was marred, distorted, and not the best reflection of what you really looked like. That is what Paul means here. Now, we see only a poor reflection of what we will have in eternity with God. We do not know fully here. Then, he says faith, hope, and love remain. The other gifts – prophecies, tongues, knowledge – will end (v.8). He calls them partial gifts, and the partial will end. However, faith, hope, and love will remain forever. Faith, hope, and love help us on this side of heaven in this poor reflection of our longing. They help us make sense of this world, come to peace with this world, and they will continue. Yet, he says the greatest of these three is love.
To me, this says a lot about my marriage. Our marriage is intended to be a reflection of God’s love for us. Wives are charged to honor and submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ. Husbands are charged to love their wives as Christ loves the church. This relationship is intended to be godly. However, our marriage is like looking in that same mirror Paul mentioned, the one that is distorted and not a perfect reflection. I can have faith in Wade’s ability to meet my expectations, but he will inevitably fail in that area. I can have hope that Wade will be who I want and need him to be, but he will fall short. LIkewise, I will fail him. However, agape love isn’t dependent upon the other person. My love for Wade should be the agape love that doesn’t require him to fulfill every expectation, that forgives his failure, that surpasses even my faith and hope. Agape love is love that only comes from God. I cannot love Wade in that wholly and holy unselfish way without an indwelling of the Spirit in my heart. I cannot love Wade in that way unless I allow God to continue working in me, changing me, and molding me to be more like Him. So, that is where I start this study, with the knowledge that the love discussed is a action, it is a godly love that does not depend on the other person.
I know I normally just end my posts. However, today I’d like to end with a prayer until I see you again to explore the love characteristic of patience. Eek! Feel free to replace our names with your own and make this prayer yours as well.
Lord, thank you for being a good God who gave us the gift of marriage so that we can experience but a glimpse, even if it is a poor reflection, of what your love for us is truly like. Marriage and having a partner to navigate this life with is truly a gift, and I pray I always remember to treat it that way. Help me to remember that love does more than just sit and look pretty; it is action. It is work that is rewarding and worth it. Father God, I am so guilty of giving and showing Wade my love when I feel he deserves it and withholding it in different ways when I feel he doesn’t. Work in my heart to make my love the agape love that comes from you. Remind me that my love for him is not dependent upon him but instead upon you. All loves flows from you. Thank you for taking that burden from us because we could never be good enough to earn anyone’s love forever. Through you, however, love never ends. That gives me hope for our marriage. I give our marriage, our relationship, our love over to you. Please bless it in your goodness and mercy.