If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.1 John 4:20-21 ESV
This verse points out just how broken our hearts truly are because it points out the truth: If we struggle to love those around us, we cannot love God.
We love well when it’s easy. Think about it when you typically say, “I love you” to your spouse—not the rote “I love you” that comes at the end of a phone call or as you’re walking out the door, but when do the words bubble up as the result of a genuine emotion? Most often, they flow from our mouths when the other person has made us feel good about ourselves. We typically tell our spouses they are loved when our needs have been met, when we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves, when they live up to our expectation for how they should treat us. They give us something or do something for us, we’re content with the relationship, they make us laugh—those are all times it’s easy to say I love you. Maybe you’ve said it as they have embraced you in a hug, or the words are whispered during an intimate moment. Perhaps they’ve loaded the dishwasher or they’ve said something to make you feel special and they’re said as words of gratitude. The reality is “I love you” most often communicates how well I’m feeling right now about our relationship.
But this isn’t biblical love. Biblical love is sacrificial love, it’s saying “I love you” when it’s hard. It’s putting the other’s needs before our own, it’s understanding the other person’s perspective, it’s accepting their struggle with sin because you have your own. It’s showing grace when mistakes are made, it’s giving mercy where it isn’t deserved, it pursues the other person despite the hurt they have caused you. Biblical love is returning harshness with kindness, neglect with compassion, betrayal with forgiveness. That’s the kind of love God showers on us every single day, and that’s the love He expects us to show His children.
There is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from the love of God. Nothing we do can push Him away—think about that.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39 ESV
Is this how we love our spouses? Can we say we will love our spouses no matter what they do to us? Can we say there is nothing that will separate us from them? Or is there I limit? I will love you until you do ‘this’ to me. That’s not how God loves us. That’s not biblical love. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is how we are to love.
Problems enter relationships when our expectations aren’t met. Every single conflict you have in your marriage can be traced back to an expectation of yours not being met. Your expectation of being treated in a certain way, your desire to be respected or loved the way you desire to be loved, your need to be heard or supported—it all gets in the way of you being able to love others the way He calls us to love. I love me before you.
Our “I love you’s” should mean “I love you before me.” I love you before my needs, I love you before my expectations, I love you before me. Spend time today thinking about how to communicate biblical love in your marriage today by choosing the words, “I love you before me.”
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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