Summary: Let’s briefly go over these behaviors in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (Material adapted from Stuart Briscoe, What About Shaky Marriages, at: http://www.preaching.com/sermons/11563496/)
A couple came to see a certain preacher -- not me. The man was particularly concerned about his wife's depression. He had tried all that he knew to help her, but nothing worked. So they came in, and the preacher couldn't do anything either. The lady was totally unresponsive. After half an hour getting nowhere at all, the preacher jumped up and pulled the woman out of her chair. He put his arm around her and kissed her. He turned to the husband and said, "That's all your wife needs about three times a week." The husband said, "Oh, I can only bring her in on Thursdays."
That man is clueless!
There are seminars available for the study of marriage. They'll teach communication, sexual fulfillment, how to handle finances, and what to do with in-laws. All are helpful but something is missing. Marriage is supposed to be based on love, but most ideas of love are naive. Go to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. We'll look at this passage and see if it will give us some simple clues about what's wrong in shaky marriages.
Several weeks ago talked about the different words in Greek for love. Storge- Companionship and family love. Eros is mainly sexual love. Phileo is friendship love. Also talked about agape- sacrificial love. This word describes God's love for us.
In 1 Corinthians 13, when the Bible tells us the greatest thing in the world is love, it isn't saying the greatest thing in the world is eros or phileo. It is agape love. God chose to be committed to our well-being even though our condition was abhorrent to Him, even though our reaction was negative toward Him. Agape love in the confines of marriage is a commitment on the part of each married partner to be primarily concerned for the well-being of the other -- even when one is displeasing and/or does not respond appropriately. Because that's a tall order and we fall short, there are many shaky marriages.
The Bible teaches that agape love is directly related to the work of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 4 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love." The word used there is agape. When we talk of this unusual love -- this commitment to the well-being of the other person -- we're talking about something related to the work of the Holy Spirit in people's lives. However, we are not to assume that agape love is simply the result of the Holy Spirit working on passive people: I stand around, and the Holy Spirit loves you through me. It doesn't work like that. You will notice that the Bible also speaks of agape as a responsibility. This wonderful passage in 1 Corinthians 13 concludes with the words, "Follow the way of love." Unfortunately, whoever divided the Bible into chapters shoved that phrase into the next chapter, but after Paul talks about love, we are told to follow the way of love. The words translated "follow the way of" means to pursue relentlessly -- to target a goal and fulfill it. Agape love is the result of the Holy Spirit operating within our lives, but it is also the result of making a definite commitment to target somebody with agape love and pursue loving them relentlessly.