This passage from 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most often used scriptural references in weddings. We did not use this scripture in our wedding, but looking back at our wedding under the expectations and journey of this chapter is kind of funny. As much as we spiritually prepared for, prayed about, read on, and discussed marriage, we really had no idea what the heck we were getting into. This is not a disparaging comment, just a note on reality… wedding vows are naive commitments; we all had such a rudimentary idea of what we were getting to on that day. Only through reading scripture, learning about and abiding in Christ, prayer, and actively submitting to each other can we enjoy Christ’s beautiful intent with the gift of marriage.

Christ said Christians will be easily identifiable by how they love each other and the world. We maintain this uncanny ability to act most disgustingly to those closest to us. While we may sometimes be glowing with love to the outside world, we can still somehow be rude, angry, inconsiderate, and selfish with our spouse and immediate families. That is a gross perversion in humanity, and unfortunately God knows the blackness of our hearts. However, thankfully the power of the Holy Spirit can rescue us from this so we can show the world love as God intends.

Read through this together with your spouse and discuss it. As you read it, understand this perfect portrayal is impossible to accomplish in our world, but only as the Holy Spirit transforms our heart, we are capable of loving and cherishing each other and the world around us. Definitely use this as a litmus test to evaluate and discuss where your hearts are and where you need to grow and act, but do not let this scripture make you feel defeated or inadequate. Free yourself to experience the true joy of Christ’s love for you and your marriage, and multiply that within your spheres of influence.

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing

This is HUGE! Read this again. This says knowledge and faith are absolutely irrelevant without love. Being able to know and understand everything humans have been incapable of comprehending and solving for all of humanity into infinity are irrelevant without love. Faith is irrelevant without love. Completely emptying yourself of all material possessions as Christ challenged the young rich man in Matthew 19:16-30 is irrelevant without love. Sacrificing your very life for Christ is irrelevant without love.

Is it possible to have true belief and faith in Christ without true love being a part of your life? The answer is no because Christ’s life and sacrifice are the ultimate examples of submissive, selfless love. This passage speaks to the transforming power of love.

The following provides a holistic definition of what love looks like. You may even replace the word “love” with your name. Do you exude these characteristics? Reflect on each declaration. Give yourself some sort of score on those elements in which you may be acting well or poorly. Ask your spouse if your assessment is accurate. Loving discuss

4Love is patient, love is kind.

In our fast-paced American culture, both of these can be quite difficult. There is no need to make this unnecessarily complex… are you patient and kind? When things do not happen according to your agenda or schedule, do you give grace? As stresses accumulate in life, are you kind to your wife, your children, the people at work, the folks you run into as you live life?

Love does not envy, …

Again, this is elegantly simple. Do you struggle with envy, boasting, or pride? You may envy both the tangible and/or intangible. Are you caught up in the  rat race of desiring material possessions like cars, houses, and other “nice things”? We often do not realize how detrimental this is to our relationships. Many men use the excuse of “providing for their families” to make their idol money so they can buy stuff. Even in this slow economy, are you spending so much time at work that you are sacrificing your marriage and family? Stuff does not matter. Your car, your toys, the size of your house, the niceness of your crap… none of it matters.

I once heard a saying that has always resonated with me… in America we sacrifice life and relationships to buy stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. Are you doing this?

However, envy can extend beyond possessions. Do you envy intangible things like relationships, other people’s situations, other people’s personality traits, beauty, being in the popular crowd, acceptance, respect, etc? We are loved and saved by grace, grafted into the God’s family as royal children. Is that good enough for you? Why, or why not?

… love does not boast, love is not proud.

Boasting is usually the external manifestation of pride, while pride is internal. We use boasting to elevate ourselves above others, to assert authority, or inject hierarchy in a relationship. We internalize pride and somehow believe we are better or more worthy than someone else. How often do these traits get in the way of your marriage and relationships? How often does pride get in the way of submitting to or serving your spouse? Get over yourself!

Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God that created all that is, ever has been, and ever will be… left heaven to hang out with humanity, lived as a nomadic hobo, and  humbled himself as the equivalent of the bottom bottom bottom of the social class structure to wash the gross, dirty, horse manured feet of his disciples to serve them. When we are boastful or prideful, we assert ourselves as better or more deserving than Christ.

5Love is not rude, love is not self-seeking, love is not easily angered, …

Again, we know these traits. Don’t be rude! You honor others and show Christ-likeness as you engage them with courtesy, respect, generosity, thoughtfulness, and with polite manners. Men, be chivalrous! Do not fiddle with your phone while she is talking, look her in the face and show her you are listening with your face and body language. Open her door . Clean up after yourself. Women, do not nag or gossip about your husband. Don’t interrupt him or embarass him in public by correcting and/or demeaning him.

elf-seeking in this context also means “self centered”. Are you self-focused or others-focused? Are you focused on your own agenda, regardless. Ask your wife and the people around you how you can serve them… and do it joyfully! Notice, pursue, and compliment your wife!

Are you inpatient and easily angered when life does not obey your agenda? When you find yourself getting angry, show grace to other and pray for the Holy Spirit to transform your heart and remove the anger.

… love keeps no record of wrongs.

Thankfully, our creator knows our sinful hearts and directly addresses this in scripture. Husbands and wives can be horrible with this! DO NOT KEEP SCORE AGAINST YOUR SPOUSE! Every time you add a mark against someone you are being passive aggressive and hardening your heart with resentfulness and bitterness.

This score keeping is what creates large, nuclear bomb arguments. These arguments can have devastating effects that take months or years to resolve. You may also recognized the arguments as those where you say things you should not, and take it “too far”.

Use these occasions as opportunities to engage in productive communication. LOVINGLY and gently share your frustration with the other person. The other person may have no idea you are frustrated! Relate with each other. Offer genuine apology and resolution. Follow through and be respectful.

6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

This verse has many connotations. Do you make gray areas out of clearly right and wrong situations? Do you fudge the truth? Do you see how closely you can skirt “the line” before falling over the cliff? Guard your mind and heart against evil. This may mean you no longer watch certain television shows / movies, no longer read certain books or magazines, no longer visit certain websites, or no longer spend time with people that tend you to sin.

Also, the reality is that we are living amidst spiritual warfare between good and evil. Be aware of how Satan tries to attack you, your wife, your kids, your loved ones, your family, etc… and unceasingly pray for and over them. Arm yourself with (actually read, consume, and memorize) the Holy Word of God. Claim your right as a child of God and call on the Jesus’ name to shield against spiritual attack. As you grow closer to God, the Spirit within you will be increasingly sensitive to evil. Submit to that divine nudging.

7Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

These are doozies and definitely remind us how we fall short of God’s glory and need Christ and the Holy Spirit. These are each powerful action words. Each of these can be put in spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional contexts.

For example, while you may provide a physically safe place for your spouse, do you protect her heart from insults, protect her mind from evil images, protect her body with appropriate sex, build her confidence with compliment,  protect her ears from vulgarity, protect her spirit with intercessory prayer, and lift her up as holy and blameless before the Lord (Ephesians 5: 25-27)? Do those things too.

This protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering love is the ONLY kind that sees a couple through not just the bad, but the unthinkably rough times that come with prolonged terminal illness. I admittedly tear up just thinking about this… but only this love empowers a man to care for his wife in a situation where her body deteriorates, physical beauty fades, mind falters, ability to communicate erodes, etc.  However, it is in situations such as these where we see the Spirit’s love and power radiate from within to touch the lives of every person around us, providing a glowing momentary snapshot of what “love” should be, and is in and through Christ.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

While there are many deeper theological points, the core message here again is on the power of true love. God empowers His people with many spiritual gifts so we can function and serve each other as one body, but one day our inevitable mortality will be realized and our eternity in heaven with Christ will come to fruition. Our story is only complete when we see Christ face-to-face and touch the scars on His hands, feet, and sides. Only then will we have any possibility of seeing His master plan and how all the pieces have fit together to fulfill his will.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Faith is the foundation of our relationship with God and hope is a choice of attitude and perspective. Both can be fleeting. Love is the higher level action that binds faith and hope together into the reality of redemption. Love is action in unselfish servant hood. Love is action in emptying yourself at the foot of the cross. Love is the action, result, and catalyst in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all men.

Regardless of how cheesy it may sound, love conquers all. Christ’s separation from God the Father, servant love, and humble sacrifice have conquered the curse of sin so we may rejoice in eternal communion with Him.

This is how you submit to, serve, honor, and truly love your spouse.

Love your spouse like this.