Happily Ever After? Part II – Staying in Love
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Last week we introduced this sermon series about marriage. We had a good time identifying and debunking just a few of the myths about marriage. We talked about how the world feeds us this idea that there is simply one person out there, Mr. Right, Miss Right, our soul mate that if we find that one person then marriage will be easy. Well, that is simply not true. Instead what we learn is that marriage is really hard and takes a lot of work. That is what we are talking about today, the work part.
Here is what we think love is really like. We think it is only this moment. [You had me at hello video] But actually love is longer than that moment. Love isn’t a moment; love is a way of life. Love is what we are all called to live out day in and day out in all our relationships. But how? It isn’t easy yet we are all called to do it. One of the hardest places to do it is in that life long commitment. We make that commitment to show the world what love can look like. As a marriage couple that is what your relationship is, a mirror that reflects what true Christian love is to look like in a relationship.
The letters of Paul were written in Greek, the written language of the day. In the Greek Language there are four different kinds of love; philia, eros, storge, and agape. Philia is the love between friends, brotherly love. This is where Philadelphia gets its name, the city of Brotherly Love. Eros is the sense of being in love also known as lust. That is where we get our English word erotic from and that basically sums that one up. Storge is affection or the love one has for family. It is the love we have for our kids and pets. Agape is unconditional love, sacrificial love, God love. Now in English we simply have love. We love hotdogs and we love our wife. We love baseball and we love our kids. Do we love all of them on the same level or in the same way, I truly hope not. As Christians we are all called to live out agape love, God style love, unconditional and sacrificial love for one another, especially in marriage.
I went back to the Greek just to double check and sure enough agape is the Greek Paul uses throughout 1 Corinthians. If we want to life out what love truly looks like in God’s eyes then we need to live out the blueprint that is set in front of us in this chapter. Now this is a popular text at weddings. Be honest, how many of you all had this as the scripture read at your wedding? Now be honest again, how many have read it since you were married? The truth is that if we truly want to stay in love with our spouse then we need to follow what Paul lays out here. It is here that we get 16 habits of what love looks like; 16 actions or behaviors that if followed by each person, a marriage will last for a lifetime. The thing is it has to be followed by each partner, the husband and the wife. As we learned last week in Ephesians we are both on the same level and we each have to submit to this type of love for the other.
Let’s walk through the text again and here these 16 habits or behaviors of love.
1. Love is patient – patience is more than simply waiting. It is the ability to watch a person grow and change with no pressure. Love doesn’t add pressure on someone to do something they don’t want to do or go against who they are. We all grow into the likeness of God at different rates and if we love patiently we allow the other to arrive on their time and something that is not forced. If it is forced it isn’t real, so love patiently waits.
2. Love is kind – it recognizes that the other person has feelings and it validates them. Cruelty is removing the humanity of someone but to love kindly means we realize that our actions and life effects the other and we recognize that.
3. Love isn’t jealous – a confident love doesn’t mind our spouse outshines us. It is jealous of their successes or if they make more money than we do. “Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett received great recognition for his work--but not every one savored his accomplishments. Beckett's marriage, in fact, was soured by his wife's jealousy of his growing fame and success as a writer. One day in 1969 his wife Suzanne answered the telephone, listened for a moment, spoke briefly, and hung up. She then turned to Beckett and with a stricken look whispered, "What a catastrophe!" Was it a devastating personal tragedy? No, she had just learned that Beckett had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature!” That is jealous love, that is not agape.
4. Love doesn’t brag – there is a common theme in many marriages where the one spouse steps on the other to make themselves look better. We see it all the time in commercials where the husband is worthless as a caregiver to their children without the wife/mom there. Or we share stories that make our spouses look bad in order for us to look better. Bragging is simply a way to hold ourselves up on toothpicks. Agape love is one of humility…not boasting about ourselves.
5. Love isn’t arrogant – to be arrogant is to focus on one’s self. But in a marriage, in an agape relationship, the main focus is building up the other person. It is out of love that we want to hold up the other more than ourselves. Agape love puts the self on the back burner for the other, it is what sacrifice is all about.
6. Love isn’t rude – it is really sad to me to watch couples who have been married for years communicate. Many of them forget the common courtesy of any relationship. We teach it to our children but then we forget to model it in the relationship that the look at the most. How many times do you use please and thank you in your marriage? How many times do you command instead of ask. “Bill, could you please pass the salt.” “Susan, would please take a look at this?” Common courtesy is forgot in the comfortableness of marriage and that rudeness can start to eat at the relationship.
7. Love doesn’t seek advantage – there is this really bad habit in all relationship but especially in a marriage that we tend to keep score. We keep a tally in our heads of what we have done or what we haven’t done in order to make ourselves better than our spouse. It sounds silly but we do it all the time. You take out the trash, wash the dishes, and vacuum the floors in one week that gives you three points. Your spouse cooked dinner and cleaned the bathroom, two points. So you then, in this twisted game, have permission to hold the score over the other’s head letting them know you put more into the relationship. But true agape love doesn’t seek to have an advantage in the relationship.
8. Love isn’t irritable – we are allowed irritable days or moments because life can be stressful. Both men and women have certain times in the month when their fuse can be shorter than normal. Yet, you cannot live day in and day out walking on eggshells trying not to make the other person upset. If in a relationship that fuse is always short there is an issue. If everything you do is making your spouse upset or disappointed then something is not right, it is not agape love.
9. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrong – How I Met Your Mother is a great show and it is about to come to a close. One of the best relationships on TV is between two of their characters Lilly and Marshall. They are devoted to one another and in a recent episode they got in a huge fight. Marshall finally threw the trump card he was holding about a time when they broke up and Lilly moved to San Francisco. We all have trump cards in our heads that if we were backed into a corner we can throw to win an argument. But when we do we are keeping a record of wrong. We are not forgiving and that isn’t agape love.
10. Love isn’t happy with injustice – agape love is about doing what is right and treating the other person as a child of God. We need to learn to see each other not through the other person’s eyes but through the eyes of God. We need to stand up for our spouse and be comfortable in our relationship to stand up for the injustices we come across in life.
11. Love is happy with the truth – the truth hurts sometime, it is painful to come to grips with, but love demands truth to be told. Love has to based on truth and if not it is like the house built on sand, eventually it will erode and wash away. Tell the truth, not matter how hard, no matter how painful. Lying hurts longer than the truth.
12. Love puts up with all things – another translation puts it this way, love always protects. When we love someone we want the best for them and so we protect them as best as we can. But the way that the CEB puts it sheds some light on it as well. Unconditional love puts up with all things and doesn’t demand the other person changes who they are to be someone other than who God created them to be.
13. Love hopes all things – hope is essential to life because when life gets bad, and life will from time to time, we need a hope greater than ourselves. Agape love has a hope that is unconditional and is eternal. Every marriage needs that type of hope.
14. Love always trusts – if we have to place one thing in a relationship as a key to it, it would have to be trust. We have to trust our spouse, with our children, with life decisions, with our care, with our lives because they sleep next to us! Trust has to be essential and when it is not there, life is rocky and love doesn’t seem to be there.
15. Love endures all things – like I said, life will get hard, life isn’t promised to be easy at all and so love needs to endure. Love needs to endure mistakes the other person makes, the changes in life that comes with a new job, a new child, children moving out, a new house, the death of parents or siblings, and the little things that make some marriages seem like we are being pecked to death by ducks.
16. The final one is that Love never fails – there are times when you might not like each other. Alycia and I have a phrase that we use time to time, “I love you but I don’t like you right now.” Marriage is not a call to like each other in absolutely every moment in life but we are called to love each other. We promise for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, in the best of times and in the worst of time, to always love. When we think that agape love, unconditional and sacrificial love can fail, then we have lost hope, lost joy, and there is something wrong.
As Christians we are called to love everyone like this agape love. One place where this can be lived out is in a marriage. In the second creation story in Genesis God creates man and woman and it says this “this is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh. The two of them were naked, that man and his wife, but they weren’t embarrassed.” In this relationship we become so naked for another person it can be really difficult. Not only in the physical sense but also the emotional and spiritual sense. This person will see you in your moments of deepest pain and suffering, greatest moments of joy and desire, tender and honest moments, this person will see you in your rawest form of who you are. Your spouse will see you naked and if agape love is there then there will be no embarrassment, no shame, only love.
So if we want to stay in love with our spouse for 50+ years then we need to remember what Paul tells us about agape love, true love. This is the blueprint we are asked to follow. These are the habits and behaviors of what love truly looks like.
There is one other thing that I have learned over my 11 years of marriage and 19 years of dating one woman. Not only did I rock the long hair in high school but we have to learn to love the other person how they want to be loved. There is a book I first read in college during my marriage and family class. It is called “The 5 Love Languages.” I think it is essential to a good marriage and how we can learn to live out these habits that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians.
The idea is that we all have a love language and each of us have one that is different than the other. Here is a short video that explains the five different loves…[The 5 Love Languages]
So a quick review of the five love languages:
1. Words of Affirmation – just like you think, it is verbally telling someone you love them, you are proud of them, you trust them, so for and so on.
2. Acts of Service – actions speak louder than words, so picking up around the house, folding laundry, doing the dishes, mowing the grass are ways that these people know they are loved.
3. Receiving Gifts – for these people it may not be about the size or cost but the thought that counts. You were away and you were thinking of them. You saw this item and it reminded them of you.
4. Quality Time – sometimes all people crave to know they are loved is your undivided attention, no phones, no internet, no children, just quality time with you.
5. Physical Touch – holding hands, arm around the shoulder, a kiss goodbye or hello, these are all ways that people who have this love language feel loved. They want to cuddle, be hugged, and have meaningful appropriate touch from their spouse.
What we need to take from this book is to learn how we want to be loved but also how our spouse feels and receives love. What happens is that if we feel loved with words of affirmation we tend to show our love to our spouse that way. But our spouse may feel loved through quality time. Maybe your spouse always wants to spend time with you because that is how they feel loved and no matter how you tell her that she is special she still doesn’t feel loved. Many couples tend to be speaking different languages. Visit their website 5lovelanguages.com and learn more about you and your spouse love language.
The key to staying in love is learning how to love. Learning your partner’s love language will give you the keys to how you can live into the sixteen habits Paul talks about. If we are doing all 16 then our marriages will never fail. We need to stand strong and strive for that agape love, that unconditional, sacrificial type of love. The love that God modeled for us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So may you dust off that scripture that was read as you started your life together and start living it.
And all God’s people said….Amen.