From Craig Swanson…
Love Is a Verb
Is it possible to love your spouse after many years of marriage as much as you loved them in the beginning of the relationship? It depends on whether love is a noun or a verb. A couple who is having marriage problems might say that they just don’t love each other anymore. They’re saying they don’t have the same feelings toward that other person that they once had. Love in that statement is a noun. Make love a verb in that statement and they’ve just diagnosed the problem in their relationship – they don’t love each other anymore. Jesus said in John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” Love is a verb in that commandment – it’s something you do – it’s an act of the will.
Be Subject To One Another
Let’s look at how the Bible tells us to love our spouse. The classic passage on the husband/wife relationship is Eph. 5:22-33. But the lead-in verse to this passage is (v.21), “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Here is the idea of mutual submission, further explained in Phil. 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” This verse is describing how we are to regard all believers, but it certainly applies to our spouse and gives meaning to being subject to one another. Think about how you treat someone you regard as more important than yourself – a bride, your boss, a famous person – you honor them, you defer to them.
It Used To Come Naturally
Think about when you first started dating – treating the other person as more important than yourself came naturally. You held them in a sense of awe – your heart skipped a beat when you saw them – because you held them in high esteem, you served them willingly. You wanted to please them so that you could win their affection. You willingly gave of your time just to be with them. Now admittedly, at the time, you had the aid of powerful hormones surging through your body, causing you to feel love (noun) toward the other person, which in turn caused you to love (verb) them. The problem in marriages comes when the hormones subside and the feelings fade, resulting in a decreased motivation to actively love the other person. Unfortunately, all along it really is about what is best for me. We’re constantly looking out for our own self-interest. We are selfish and sinful by nature.
A Mindset Change
Even though we have to deal with the propensities of our flesh, we who are followers of Christ are new creatures in Christ. Paul reminds us to act like we have a new nature and “regard one another as more important than ourselves” and not to “merely look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” We do this by changing our mindset to that of the One we follow. (Phil. 2:5-7) “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Even though he was God, He emptied Himself and came as a servant. So here is the attitude that will change your marriage – my spouse is more important than me – I am in this relationship to serve them – I am commanded to love them unconditionally. Regardless of their response. Let’s re-read that hated verse now that we have a new mindset – “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” You defer to them – they are more important – you serve them.
The 28 Day Challenge
They say it takes 28 days to form a good habit. So I challenge you to set aside the next 28 days to serve your spouse. From the perspective of the husband – what are her needs, how can you help her, how can you serve her, what would show her that she is loved? Remember, she is more important than you, so take some time and think these things through and make her life better – be her lover. (Verb) Just as a warning going into this – there will be times when this will be extremely hard. She will not always respond in the way that you expect. You will feel unloved and unappreciated. In these times readjust your mindset. (Jesus was God and perfect, and yet He was misunderstood and mistreated.) When it gets tough, look to Jesus as your example and humble yourself. My spouse is more important than me – I am in this relationship to serve them – I am commanded to love them unconditionally.
It might be helpful to talk about this with a same-sex friend and be accountable to each other and exchange ideas. “Spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Heb. 10:24)