While 1 Corinthians 13 is often called “the love chapter”, it is not about romantic love. It’s a portrait of God’s love, which is the love we’re all called to walk in as Christians, and it’s especially important in the marriage relationship. When we read verses, 1-3, we see how important godly love is in our lives as Christians and even more particularly in our marriages, because they say If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If 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. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. We tend to skim over these first few verses to get to the ones we consider the most important, because we believe they’re the ones that tell us what love is and what it isn’t, and what it does and doesn’t do, but these verses actually tell us a lot about that too.
For instance, I’m sure it was not unintentional or just by coincidence that the very first verse in the “love” chapter talks about how we speak. I now understand, as never before, why that’s so important, especially in light of Luke 6:45, which tells us that out of the overflow of our hearts our mouths speak, and Proverbs 18:21, which tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death and that those who love it will eat its fruit. No matter how beautiful or impressive the words we speak are, when they don’t convey or reflect the love of God, they are nothing but loud and useless noise; and bear no fruit. In fact, they are very likely to cause death, and if we’re honest, we’ve all spoken harmful words that contributed to the death and destruction of our marriages. So it doesn’t matter how intelligent we are, how much wisdom we have or how strong our faith is, because if we don’t understand and demonstrate the meaning and power of God’s love, our knowledge, wisdom and faith are totally worthless. And finally, no matter what good deeds we do, and no matter what sacrifices we make, we gain nothing if not motivated by godly love, because as Jeremiah 17:10 tells us, God searches our hearts and examines our minds to reward us according to our conduct, according to what our deeds deserve. Therefore, it’s very important that what we say, know, understand, believe and do is rooted in the love of God. In fact it is SO important that James 4:3 warns us When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Many times when I first begin talking to someone standing for marriage restoration, I sense so much anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, self-righteousness and condescension, that it makes me cringe. It makes me cringe because I remember those feelings all too well, and know from my own experience how destructive they are and how they stop marriage restoration dead in its tracks. Marriage restoration is NOT possible unless we deal with these emotions through the love of God, which is what 1 Corinthians 13 shows us how to do, especially the following verses:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Yet, despite our acts and feelings of anger, bitterness, Unforgiveness, self-righteousness and condescension, we still think we love our spouses. But if we take the time to carefully read the above verses and then ask how well we have demonstrated our love, that should have the desired effect of getting our focus off of our spouses’ sin and failures onto our own. And that’s important, because there’s nothing we can do about theirs, but there’s an awful lot we can and need to do about ours. And those who refuse to understand and apply the wisdom found in Matthew 7:3 will probably NEVER experience the restoration of their marriages, because they’re too focused on everything their husbands and wives have done wrong and too wrapped up in their identity as victims to answer the question, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Sadly, the inability to do that falls far short of the love described in the above verses, and whatever self seeking and self gratifying emotion they experience, it certainly doesn’t come close to the love described in John15:13 (AMP), which says No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends. Whatever else love might or might not be, it is ALWAYS sacrificial, and those unwilling or unable to love sacrificially can not understand the power of Proverbs 19:22, which says What a man desires is unfailing love.
So the most difficult, yet most rewarding, challenge for anyone standing for marriage restoration is learning to walk in the love described in the above verses, and even though it is not easy, it IS possible. And Jesus revealed the ONLY way to do it in John 15:5, where He said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Jesus demonstrated the greatest act of love the world has ever known by dying for us on the cross, and in Luke 9:23, He challenges us to follow His example of sacrificial love, because it says Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. So that’s our challenge as we stand for the restoration of our marriages and families; to deny our flesh and follow Jesus in sacrificial love.