By Dr. Harold Sala
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1,13
Some might think it rather strange that in a list of marriage savers, love would be third on the list, behind commitment and communication! But actually, both commitment and communication precede love when it comes to logical sequence. If you are not completely committed to someone, you don’t care enough to communicate. And if you don’t really communicate with someone–at a deep and intimate level–love begins to wither and die.
A marriage can exist without love. Thousands of men and women manage to stay married to each other and do not love each other. But it is a mechanical, wearisome existence far, far short of our expectation and God’s provision. You can be happy without many things in life, but you can’t be happily married without love.
Dr. David Olson, a marriage and family specialist from the University of Minnesota, believes that of those who remain in a marriage without love, the vast majority of people are decidedly unhappy.
Before marriage, love is the deep intoxicating, overwhelming conviction that you simply cannot live without someone. You literally swoon in the presence of that person. You worship the ground that he or she walks on. Yes–that’s love. Or so we think. We send valentines, flowers, and messages expressing the fact that we cannot live without the other person. There is romance, faith, optimism, exhilaration, acceptance, hope, and sexual stimulation! This, we think, is love!
Then you marry. How quickly things can change. I am thinking of a conversation which I heard as a husband told his wife that he felt she no longer loved him. With tears and angry bitter words she replied, “How can you say that? I clean your house, raise your kids, do the washing and ironing, and you say I don’t love you!”
What is love? I asked myself that question the day a young couple came for counseling. He had fathered a child by a young woman who had worked in his office. Yet I noticed that the large, silver belt-buckle he wore bore the words, L-O-V-E. Too often love is really spelled, L-U-S-T.
Love–the kind that keeps a marriage together, the same kind which Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13–is a deep commitment, a decision to care, a non-emotional binding decision to meet the needs of another person.
When we think of love, we often think of the emotional infatuation of the young, walking hand in hand. But I also think of the deep commitment of parents and grandparents who care for the one who can no longer take care of himself or herself. I am reminded of the deep commitment of Dr. Robert C. McQuilkin who cut short a meaningful career and resigned as President of Columbia Bible College to take care of his wife who had become afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the real commitment of mature love.
Real love is not affected by the squalls of temptation, nor is it lessened by the ravages of time and aging when someone is no longer the person they were a few decades before.
Love, like a fire which has to be rekindled every morning, is kept alive through kind words, tender expressions of thoughtfulness and bottom line acts such as carrying out the garbage and making the bed. It’s important to express love but it is more important to demonstrate it.
Interested in saving your marriage? Read 1 Corinthians 13 with your mate, then ask God to let love be rekindled in your home and your heart.
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 13