This is the question my Sunday school leader asked our group this past weekend. We’re currently doing Gary Thomas’ video series, Sacred Marriage, which goes with his book by the same title. It’s a great course, and I have loved hearing different perspectives on marriage and how God works in our marriages and uses them to refine us.
The answer to this question also fits into our “Out-Love Your Spouse” challenge. So here it is:
A spouse-based marriage is performance based. In other words, I’ll do something nice for him if he does something for me. Or, why should I do that for her? She never does anything for me? And how about this one: He was grumpy last night. No way am I going to be nice to him today.
Basically, as long as our spouse is performing to our standards, and meeting our needs, we will love them, help them, and be a good spouse in return. As soon as they stop meeting that standard, we withdraw our affection, love and help.
In a God-based marriage we love our spouse because that is what Jesus has asked us to do—love one another. We love our spouse whether they are grumpy or happy. We help our spouse without the expectation of getting something in return. We serve our spouse as an act of serving God.
See the difference? I know this challenge to “out-love” our spouse isn’t an easy one, especially if you’re in a difficult marriage. Especially if you’re in a situation where there is hostility and rebuff. But I want to encourage you to persevere, because I am confident of two things:
1. When we love our spouse from the motivation that we are serving God—being obedient to God—God sees our efforts. Our spouse may not, but God sees. And He is faithful!
2. In some way, our spouse will be affected on some level. They may not respond right away. They may not respond in a way that you’d expect. But when we are loving our spouse from the motivation to serve God—in essence, if we are loving our spouse from a place of loving Jesus—we become a conduit for the love of Christ to reach our spouse. That’s powerful!
Look at Hebrews 10:23-24:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
My friends, we heard what Shelley shared with Lynn in the video about what her pastor told her. Our calling to love and serve begins right in our own homes. God wants us to start there before He can bring us out into the mission fields of our workplace, our neighborhood, or even our friends and extended family.
Don’t give up. God calls us to love even the most unlovable. Even if that defines our spouse at the moment. And if we’re totally honest here, we aren’t always very lovable either, are we?
Last week, I did small things for my hubby, like sitting on the couch with him instead of the chair I usually sit on. I looked for little things that would make his life a little easier and his home a haven to return to. God put this on my heart as away to comfort my stressed out guy. One night, this poor guy thanked me for making dinner—twice in one meal. I didn’t ask for that appreciation. I only sought to do what God was showing me to do.
And finally, let me say that just because our spouse isn’t a believer (yet) doesn't mean we can’t have a God-centered marriage. You are the conduit to bring God into your marriage. Keep the faith and remember that through that very same faith, your spouse partakes in your sanctification (read “Sanctified Unbeliever” here) and God’s covering.
Praying and believing,