Jump-Starting Your Marriage

May 7, 2012 at 10:47 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

Spouses should not be envious. Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wish he or she did not possess? In the Bible’s description of agape love, there are both positive and negative sides. Christian love suffers long, which means that spouses should put up with mistreatment from the other spouse. Spouses should also be kind, which means to take the positive initiative of “doing good” to your spouse at every opportunity. If you are familiar with your car battery, you know that there must be a “negative” and a “positive” charge, or else your car won’t go anywhere.

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Without these “negative” and “positive” applications of Christian love our marriages likewise won’t “go” where God wants them to go. The Bible gives “thou shalt nots” and “thou shalts,” often hand in hand.

In I Corinthians 13:4, the Bible adds that agape love is not envious. Envy occurs when you don’t like the situation someone else is in because you perceive that their situation is better than yours. Envy is not exactly the same thing as jealousy. Jealousy in a marriage is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to be jealous over our spouses instead of jealous of our spouses. There is a righteous jealousy which does not want our spouses’ affections to be given to someone else, and this jealousy is righteous instead of selfish because it is motivated by an honest belief that those affections – if given to you instead of someone else – would actually be the best thing for your spouse. In other words, you should desire the affection, attention, and devotion of your spouse, knowing that you will be a trustworthy recipient of those feelings. Probably the best way to illustrate this is to recognize that God is a jealous God because the giving of our devotion or love to anyone or anything else over Him is simply not right, and it’s disastrous for us.

Envy, on the other hand, is a bad thing in general. Think of some instances in the Bible where envy caused problems: Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 37; Haman against Mordecai in Esther 5; Jonah at Nineveh after the Ninevites repented; Lucifer, because his envy was tied to his pride.

In fact, it is primarily because of the relationship of pride to envy that envy is such a danger in marriage. There can be a tendency in marriage to seek what we think we deserve, rather than seeking to serve. Envy defeats service because envy says to your spouse, “You shouldn’t have that.” Or, “You shouldn’t have it your way.” And the hidden agenda is, “You shouldn’t have that because I’m the one who should have it.” Or, “You shouldn’t have it your way because I should be having it my way.” Such thinking leads to a failure to express the love of Christ.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Romans 12:15

The love of Christ is an expression of genuine empathy: You genuinely desire the other person’s summum bonum – their highest good.


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