Devotion #164

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:18-19 ESV

It isn’t our acts of love that cause God to love us. It is always the reverse. God loves first. We love because He first loved us. We don’t do anything to earn it, and we certainly don’t deserve it, He just loves us unconditionally.

This is how we are to love our spouses—with the same unconditional love. Yet, so often, our love for them is contingent upon how they treat us. If they are rude or critical, if they hurt us or neglect us, we withhold our love from them. Sometimes we’ll give it back to them if they apologize, but only if we believe they are sincere. Sadly, we’ll often keep a portion reserved to determine if their apology is genuine. Our hearts remain guarded, and our love is shallow.

The love in our marriage is to be deep and wide and without condition. We are to love when we’re criticized, when we’re hurt, when we’ve been betrayed—even when they do it over and over again. We are to love when they are being difficult or annoying and when they wound us deeply. We are even to love them when they are unlovable, and we are to do it without condition. Our love is not to be contingent upon their apology, our love is not to be dependent upon their treatment of us, our love is not to be the result of how they love us. We are to love first, as God loved us.

Why do you suppose we don’t love as we’re called to love? Is it that we want to protect ourselves from the hurt that comes from opening our hearts and trusting someone else? Is it that we want to remain in control? Is it a prideful response that keeps us from letting go? Is it that we are more focused on our own comforts, our own ego, our own needs?

It is impossible to love others as God loves us without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We simply cannot put them first the way He calls us to love—our hearts are just too self-focused. We need His Spirit of love living inside of us to love others well. If you want to know the deep and unconditional love that His Spirit provides in your marriage, you must do those things that strengthen the Spirit—spend time in prayer and in His Word daily, spend time in community with fellow believers, sit under the teaching of a pastor in a church community. We must abide in Him, so He can abide in us.

When we are abiding in Him, we are being obedient to His Word, and when He is abiding in us, His Word is stored in our hearts. We are in tune with Him, our thoughts are turned toward Him, we feel His presence. But letting His words abide in us isn’t just reading scripture or listening to a sermon on the weekends, it means so much more than that. It is intentionally seeking the Word of God as living and responding to it by applying it to our lives. It means we do everything we can to allow His living Word to impact our lives, our relationships, our emotions.

So, God’s love is perfected in us as we are obedient to His commandments and as we allow His Spirit to live in us—as we love each other. “Perfect love” is the love of God expressing itself in our love for each other. The love we show others should be filled with the mercy and grace He shows us, it should be full of forgiveness, and it should cast out fear.

Trusting the love that he has for us in Jesus Christ, He abides in us and His love overflows into action. It all begins with the love of God. “We love because he first loved us.” If you are struggling to find the power of love in your marriage, start by opening Scripture today. Read the Word of God, look to the cross of Christ and let the love of He had for you as a broken sinner fill you with the love you need for your spouse.

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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