Cultivating a Healthy Marriage: Clothed with Love

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).

Love is that piece of clothing in your spiritual wardrobe that will hold your entire marriage relationship together. It serves sort of like a safety belt for your marriage and also every other relationship.

God’s Design for Passages Like This

In a text like this, I think it is important to remember and embrace God’s design when He commands us in His Word to do something like love one another.  The Lord desires to first humble us with the love that He requires of us so that we will receive the love that He offers us.

So, at the outset, we acknowledge that the fuel and energy for truly loving one another is to embrace His love for us. It is important to personalize passages like these: “He has loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). “We know love by this: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us” (1John 3:16). When you experience the security of His love, it frees you to truly love one another.

What is true, agape love?

Agape is the Greek word for a God-like love. Here is the best definition that I have after my own years of study of this:

Agape love is
a commitment of the will
to sacrificially serve the interests and needs of your spouse
in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

On your wedding day, you made a covenant with God and one another that you would love each other until death parts you. You can only fulfill your vow as you remember and rejoice in how much the Lord loves you. This definition reminds you that sometimes you will not feel very loving towards one another. True love is not so much a feeling but an action… a commitment of the will.

When you don’t feel a lot of love for one another, the best thing you can do is to do a loving deed for your spouse. My experience has been that the feelings of love are like a caboose on a train. They always follow the deeds of love (the engine of any relationship). This is very counter-intuitive. When people lose that loving feeling, they don’t do anything because they say their heart just isn’t in it. This is why some of your friends’ marriages will end in divorce. You can avoid this landmine by disciplining yourself to do loving deeds of service for each other and you will recover that loving feeling, but if you do nothing, your hearts will tend to grow cold and callous. You will just take one another for granted and go through the motions. All of us face this marital temptation.

Secondly, this definition of true love reminds us that loving another person always involves a sacrifice. Remember Jesus’ words to his followers: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13-14). His love for us involved the greatest of sacrifices… He died the death we should have died.

Your love for one another will involve making sacrifices. Both of you modeled this sacrificial, servant-hearted love to mom and me in hosting us in your home and feeding us. It took time and money to do this. You could have done so many other things and probably needed to do so, but you took time with us. Make sure to do this with one another.

According to Colossians 3:14, this love enables you to live in harmony. The text says that love “binds everything together in perfect (complete) harmony.” As you experience the Lord’s love for you, your marriage will become more harmonious and less competitive and strife-filled. The thesaurus adds these words as descriptors of “harmonious:”  Friendly, amicable, cordial, easy, peaceful, peaceable, cooperative; sympathetic, united, attuned, in tune, of one mind, and seeing eye to eye. This type of marriage relationship takes time to develop.

This doesn’t mean that you will not have arguments and conflicts. This same love will empower and enable you to forgive the sins and complaints you have against one another (Colossians 3:14). Because Christ has covered your sins, you are to cover each other. You forgive the small provocations of one another because He has forgiven you all of your provocations against Him.

Let me conclude by encouraging you both to do something that I ask every couple with whom we do premarital counseling: To spend a little time thinking about and developing A LOVE PLAN for your marriage. All of us spend time thinking about purchases that we want to make, how to make and pay for home improvements, etc. Yet, very few couples take time to develop an intentional plan for how they will practically love each other.

What do I mean by a love plan? Very simply, ask and answer this one question: What is it that will make my wife feel loved? What is it that will make my husband feel loved? Now, you should not do this in a vacuum. You should talk with one another about what it is that communicates love to each other. Initially, I would not make a list longer than three things.

Below is an example of what one husband decided to do in order to become more intentional about loving his wife:

1) Make time to enjoy activities with her during the day on weekends: we do not get to see each other much during the week due to work, and it is not uncommon that the weekends are our only time together. I know how significant time together is for her and how meaningful a few extra hours a week can be.

2) Show appreciation: often my wife listens to my issues and offers advice, telling me how proud she is. I know how far an unexpected show of appreciation can go. It is important that she knows how proud I am of her successes, especially endeavors independent from our relationship such as work and athletic accomplishments.

3) Entertain her: it is easy to become complacent and forget how fortunate I am to have such a great spouse in life. By showing her attention and striving to make her laugh, I hope to make her feel important and valued.

When you fail at loving your spouse.Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame and shame, but run to the cross and find there again the love that will not let you go! When your spouse fails at loving you well, remember that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12).

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