Bitter or Sweet? – Part 3

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We are continuing with the topic of improving one’s marriage, whether it is currently bitter or sweet. If you haven’t read the previous two Corners, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, not to be squandered or taken for granted. If we will invest in our marriages, the dividends will be rich and ongoing. Therefore, may we invest whatever is necessary to improve our marriages.

Think about when you were getting to know your wife and then during your engagement. Did you buy her gifts and write her notes telling of your love for her? Did you delight in being with her and spend large amounts of time talking to her? What other acts of love and kindness did you show her? Are you doing those same kinds of things now? If not, why not?

As we continue looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we see that love is known by the actions that are prompted. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Agape love is not passive but active. At the end of the last Dad’s Corner, we had studied 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 up through charity envieth not.

Love doesn’t vaunt itself, and it is not puffed up. We could restate these two points by saying that love is not proud. Pride is the utmost in self-love which would be the opposite of agape love. Perhaps that is why it is listed first in the “love killers.” There is no need to ask ourselves if we are proud, but rather we can simply assume that we are. Pride is such a “funny” thing. The more we resist the idea that we are proud, the more likely it is that we are proud. It would be far better to confess our pride before the Lord and seek His humbling grace. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Pride will be the root of contention in the home. It takes two proud people to quarrel. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). If even one will choose humility, there will not be a quarrel. Pride will justify unkind thoughts, words, and finally actions. The place we must begin to conquer pride is to hate it just like God hates it. “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:16-17). Look for opportunities to humble yourself, and God will lift you up. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). One simple way to humble yourself would be to admit when you are wrong. In that process, though, be careful not to justify yourself.

Love does seek his own way. Last year there was a “Dictator or Servant Leader?” series of Dad’s Corner articles Part 1, and Part 2 that would nicely cover this negative aspect of love. Suffice it to say, it isn’t Dad’s way or Mom’s way. It is to be the Lord’s way. Dad just happens to be the one responsible for making the final decision.

Love is not easily provoked. Face it. There are going to be times when your wife does not say the right thing to you or doesn’t respond well. When that happens, do you react? Are you offended? “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalms 119:165). Have you ever been around anyone who is touchy and easily reacts? At best, they make life most unpleasant. May we be “thick skinned” and choose not to let things “bug” or offend us.

Love thinketh no evil, therefore, it doesn’t keep a record of the wrongs committed. There will always be offenses in a marriage, and you can be sure it will not draw me closer to my wife if I keep score. The Lord Jesus set the example for us to follow when He took all of our offenses on Him and forgave us. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Forgetting offenses is just the beginning of denying ourselves. It’s a good place to start.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity but in truth. I wonder if a key application of not rejoicing in iniquity would be not to tease my wife. I’ve noticed that many, well okay, maybe most, wives do not appreciate their husband’s teasing. Teasing appears to be like a dagger in a wife’s heart. I believe what makes it so painful is that generally there is at least a seed of truth in the tease. From a wife’s point of view, that means her husband, the one she trusts and who is her defender, has now turned on her and is making fun of her. In essence, teasing one’s wife is not the way to show agape love. I’ve been married to Teri for thirty-seven years, and I’m hopeful (she is probably too) that I will someday learn not to tease. I’m sure I’m much better at avoiding teasing than when we were first married, but there is still significant room for improvement.

One way to rejoice in truth is for Dad to delight in leading his family in Bible time every night. Family Bible time isn’t a “have to” but it is a “joy to”! I love Teri (and my family) by my love for the Word of God.

Agape love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. This last verse presents the never-ending strength and perpetual power of agape love. It is not weak and frail. Agape love never says “the end.” It never quits no matter how difficult things become.

We just received very sad news about a wife who has cancer. Several years ago, that family also had a crisis with one of their children which has required great care and investment by the parents in both time and finances. Now on top of that, they face the heavy blow of the wife’s illness. This couple has demonstrated the reality of agape love through the years. They have been a beautiful picture of bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring. How that testifies to the reality of Jesus Christ in their marriage. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). They have glorified the Father through their love and devotion to each other. The Lord desires that depth of love in each of our marriages for our own personal edification and for a testimony to those around us.

Is your marriage bitter or sweet? Would you like it to improve? Agape love is a choice, and it is defined by the actions that it prompts. Make agape love decisions in your relationship with your wife and see what the results are. We will continue to look at this next month.