Do You Love Your Spouse Or Do You Love Yourself?

I think that there’s a lot of things that pass for love that aren’t really love at least according to any kind of biblical definition of the word. Imagine a husband who does the dishes with the expectation that his wife will let him go out with his buddies on Sunday afternoon to watch NFL games. Is he loving and serving her when he does the dishes? Obviously not. He’s loving himself. He’s doing the dishes to get something he wants for himself. What masquerades for love in many marriages isn’t love at all.

For many husbands and wives it is difficult to admit but they don’t truly love their spouse, they love themselves. What’s missing in some (many?) marriages is others centered, sacrificial love.

1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Okay that’s good news. God’s love for us moved him to send Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. We like being the object of God’s sacrificial love. But the next verse is where it starts to get uncomfortable for us.

1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

We want to be the object of sacrificial love but it’s much more challenging to be called to love other people that way. But that’s exactly what this verse does. Verse 10 defines love in terms of God sacrificing for our good and then verse 11 calls us to love others in the same way.

Paul Tripp gives this definition of love based on 1 John 4.

“Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.”

This definition puts an end to the transactional relationship found in many marriages. Love isn’t a bargain that “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Biblical love requires sacrifice. That might be sacrificing your time, comfort, need to be right, or your desire for a hassle free life. Love calls you to lay down your life for another person.

And the only way you will have the power, the spiritual resources to love that way is know the love Jesus has for you. The only way you will be able to lay down your life for another person is to know that Jesus laid down his life for you. The only way you will be able to sacrifice for others is to rest in the fact that Jesus sacrificed his life for you. The only way you will be able to die to yourself and your needs is to know that Jesus died for you and that your needs are met in him.

Our ability to truly love our spouse is directly connected to our relationship with God. To paraphrase Paul Tripp, “My core problem isn’t that I don’t love my wife enough. My core problem is that I don’t love God enough, and because I don’t love God enough, I don’t love my wife as I should.”

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