Summary: Discover how God’s love restores hope for marriage.
This morning, we continue our new series, Restoring Hope for Marriage. There was a time when I thought real Christians didn’t divorce. Then I found that one out of two Christian marriages end in divorce, the same statistic as non-Christians. Not only that, I began to counsel Christian couples on the verge of divorce. And not too long ago, a friend of mine became divorced.
The statistic, counseling and friend’s experience have helped me to understand that Christians are not immune to adultery, divorce and bad relational choices. God said in Hosea 4:6, “[My] people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” Some are acting from a lack of knowledge, while others are victims of such actions.
Knowledge is important. What we don’t know can hurt us. And what we don’t know in the areas that make the marriage covenant work has hurt Christians and non-Christians alike.
Today, we’ll be looking at one of the least understood components for a successful marriage: True love. Many people claim to marry for love. But almost none entering marriage know what true love is, and only a small percentage mature in their understanding and practice of love over the years.
When a group of children were asked, “Why do people fall in love?” One 8-year old answered, “I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful.” Little boy, the pain from the arrow is only the beginning.
A 7-year old responded to the same question, “It isn’t always just how you look. Look at me. I’m handsome like anything, and I haven’t got anybody to marry me yet (From The Marriage Book by Nicky and Sila Lee).”
Charlie Shedd, famous for his books, Letters to Philip and Letters to Karen, noted, “Love could, often does, and definitely should, grow.” Has your definition of love matured in the years you’ve been married? Do you love your mate more now or when you first married? I pray God will empower you to love your spouse more and more maturely.
Our text is 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Corinth. Corinth was called “the bridge of the sea,” could be compared to Hong Kong, connecting trade between many countries. On top of being prosperous, this ancient city was populated with temples to many gods, including Aphrodite, whose temple had more than 1,000 female prostitutes. To call someone a Corinthian is to point to his or her sexual immorality.
To Christians in this setting come Paul’s letter and this morning’s passage on true love. If this true love can prevail in Corinth, this true love can triumph in any marriage. Let’s look together at what true love is like.
First, true love gives without expecting in return. Verses 1-3
Paul points to various God-given gifts the Corinthian Church values highly: The gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy and revelation, the gift of faith and the gift of material possessions. Yet, Paul values the gift of love above all other gifts from God.
John 3:16 tells us of this love from God, “For God so loved the world that he gave [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” True love gives. The New Testament uses the Greek word, “agape,” to describe God’s love, a love that gives without expecting in return. Other kinds of love exchange or take. They are self-seeking love.
Let me give you a verse, and then a principle. The verse is 1 John 4:19, “We love because [God] first loved us.” And the principle is “Love must first be received before it can be given, and you can only give to the degree you have received.”
For instance, when children experience unconditional love from parents, the children have a reservoir of love to give to others. But only parents who have received unconditional love from God, from each other or from their parents, can have a reservoir of love to give to their children and to each other. Those whose love banks are depleted will not be able to give true love to others. They may give others love that makes demands in return.
You might have made these or experienced these demands. They are not always spoken demands, but if they were verbalized, this is the way they would sound, “I love you if you get good grades. I love you if you clean the house. I love you if you make me feel intelligent, special, wanted or sexually satisfied. This kind of love does not give but exchange or take. And this kind of love comes from a person with a depleted love bank.
Further problem arises when people with depleted love banks try to fill their love banks with drug, alcohol, sex outside of marriage, risky behavior, codependent relationship or anything else that temporarily fills the painful emptiness of a depleted love bank. In the long run, control of others or loss of self-control add to the problem of an already depleted love bank.