Marriage is a unique experience. God takes two opposites and makes them one. In fact, it is the very fact that we are opposites (physically and usually in personality) that we were drawn to our spouses in the first place. Think through the couples you know. Often, one is outgoing the other more reserved. One is rejuvenated in a crowd the other by being alone. And so, God takes two opposites and puts them together. We learn, after the honeymoon, that many adjustments need to be made to have a healthy and enjoyable marriage. It is part of God’s refining and discipling process.
If, however, we do not grow and manage the differences we can experience distance and put ourselves at risk of unfulfilled marriages, affairs and divorce. We also miss one of God’s key means of making us more like Him.
So, how do we love each other when we do not “feel” like it? How do we love each other when we do not like each other at the moment? How do we remain faithful to our vows?
“Love as distinct from ‘being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those times when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if allowed themselves, be ’in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Read: Galatians 5:13-17, 22-24
13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Does freedom mean I can do whatever I want? See verses 13 and 17. Freedom is not having rights, it is the power to do what is right!
Can you see how some marriages could be described by verse 13? What a witness that is to our children and our neighbors that we would “through love be servants to one another”!
Conversely, can you see how some marriages could be described by verse 15?
The key to balanced, freedom-filled relationships is in verse 16. Paul commands Christians to “walk by the Spirit.” Not a suggestion. This is an on-going, daily, hourly, moment by moment choice to allow God’s Spirit to lead us.
GO DEEPER: “so you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh”. The word fulfill (telew in the Gk) means to bring something to maturity or to its end. This is a subjunctive verb unique to Greek culture. Subjunctive is called, “the mood of possibility”. It is used in the NT to indicate things that exist but do not have to happen. For example, “do not leave your keys in the car (imperative) and you won’t tempt your child to accidentally start it (subjunctive). By leaving the keys in the car I provide the opportunity for a child to start it. There is a mood of possibility there. Now, with us obeying the Spirit vs. the flesh there is a mood of possibility with the flesh. It is ready to be started and take over.
Your flesh is a real enemy and the possibility for us to give in to its draw is very real. So, we are commanded to walk by the Spirit! That is the key to maturity in marriage and in life. As we surrender to His power in our lives we are made increasingly free to love others (which includes our spouses!).
Have you learned to love your spouse with the love that shows up even when you do not like each other much? Have you found the power of God to help you love each other?
When you have those times that you do not like each other, will you commit to seek the Lord for His “grace” and the “quieter love” that He will provide for you?
How will you die to yourself today? What choices will you make to insure you are filled with the Holy Spirit?
DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.