a.k.a. “How to Have a Great Marriage (part four)”
There’s a game that gets played at church camps and other youth gatherings on occasion, and here’s how it’s played:
All of the kids, except for one, will sit on chairs in a circle. The person who is “it” stands in the middle of this circle, and he looks for a place to sit down—someone whose chair he wants to take. In order to do this, he has to go up to one of the people sitting down and—without touching them—get them to smile by only saying the words, “Honey, if you love me, you’ll smile.” The person sitting down has to reply—with a straight face—”Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile.” If they crack a smile at all, they have to give up their seat.
It’s funny to watch them struggle against smiling, and it’s also just as funny to see how dramatic the person can get who is asking them to smile.
But there’s something I’d like for you to think about…
People try to make demands of love all the time.
- IF you love me, you’ll smile.
- If you REALLY loved me, you wouldn’t complain about visiting my parents.
- If you REALLY loved me, you’d take me out to eat.
Those might seem kinda funny. But how about these:
- If you REALLY loved me, you’d become a Baptist (this happens)
- Or when a couple is dating—before they’re married—if you REALLY loved me, you’d have sex with me.
And you want to know what most of this boils down to? Someone being self-centered and saying, “You don’t really love me if you don’t do what I want to do.”
YOU DON’T REALLY LOVE ME if you don’t give in to my demands!
Talking like that is hypocritical. It is egotistical. It is mean-spirited. It is emotional warfare. And it is something that can destroy your marriage.
Why? Because most of the time when people use this phrase, they’re trying to manipulate their spouse. Because most of the time, when people use the “If you love me…” they are demanding something that has nothing to do with love at all! Because most of the time, when someone says, “if you really love me…” they’re showing that they don’t really love the person they’re talking to. Because many times, when people say “If you love me…”, they’re trying to get the other person to sin.
They’re asking you to prove your love by doing something that doesn’t prove love at all!
Satan used this tactic when talking to Jesus. (Matthew 4).
- If you’re REALLY the Son of God, prove it by jumping off a building.
- If you’re REALLY the Son of God, prove it by doing a selfish miracle.
These things wouldn’t have proven Jesus was the Son of God. It would have proven quite the opposite, because He would be sinning.
God says there are things that you will do if you really love your spouse.
It’s not wrong to say, “if you REALLY love me you will _____.” That is, so long as you fill in the blank with something actually that the Bible says about love. After all, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.”
If you REALLY love me, you’ll be patient with me (I Corinthians 13:4).
“Charity [Love] suffers long.”
The word “charity” is AGAPE, or love. It’s the love we are commanded to have for each other (John 13:34). As we mentioned last week, we are all supposed to have this kind of love for our spouse.
So, in order to have a God-honoring marriage, a marriage that is pleasing to God, a marriage that is happy and enjoyable and GREAT, we will “suffer long” with our spouse.
The phrase “suffers long” is the same word which is also translated “endured” and “patient” in other verses. In order to have a God-honoring marriage, you have to be patient with your spouse. You have to be long-suffering with your spouse.
What’s that mean? It means you may have to suffer for a long time with your spouse. People don’t change overnight. Bad habits take time to overcome. Love is a learning process. People make mistakes.
As a spouse, you MUST exercise patience. You HAVE TO give them time to get things right. You may have to endure a lot, but if you do, your strengthened marriage will be worth it.
A woman confessed to a marriage counselor, “I love him, but I can’t stand it. He’s always messing up. I’ve been after him for years to improve himself. He still says things sometime without even thinking. I’ve had it up to here with him!”
The marriage counselor shook his head and said, “You don’t really love him.” Shocked, she said, “Of course I love him!” He repeated, “You don’t really love him. You said yourself that you constantly criticize him because he hasn’t changed enough for you yet.”
“So? I still love him.”
“You’re not patient with him. And love is patient. No patience? That means you don’t love him.”
If you aren’t patient with your spouse, it means you don’t really love him/her.
Now, I understand, it’s easier said than done. But do you really think God’s going to accept your excuse of “he keeps messing up” when he asks why you weren’t patient with your spouse?
After all, YOU keep messing up too, and God is patient with you.
A comic strip I read a couple years ago had two women talking to each other. One of them says, “What’s that smoke?” The other one says, “Well, Ole Ben burned dinner.” “And what’s that big stain on your shirt?” “Well, Ole Ben spilled grape juice one me.” Why didn’t you get it cleaned?” “Well, Ole Ben cleaned it for me. And then he dropped it in the mud when he was hanging it out to dry.” “Sounds like your husband messes up everything he touches. I’d be furious!” “Naw, I love him.” “How could you love someone who keeps destroying your stuff?” ” I love him because no matter how much he messes up, he keeps trying.”
When YOU keep trying, regardless of how much you mess up, God will forgive you. When YOUR SPOUSE keeps trying, you should have patience with them.
Even when it seems like your spouse ISN’T trying, you need to have patience with them. You can’t expect him to become a perfect husband overnight. If you start trying to change everything he does, you know what message that sends to him? I don’t like you the way you are. If there are things that need to be changed, you need to be patient, realizing it may take years before it finally takes hold; before he finally “gets it.”
And husbands, if you want your wife to change the way she does some things, you have to be patient too. It takes time to change and to get used to doing things differently. BE PATIENT.
“If you love me, you’ll be patient with me.”
This is true, because “Love is patient.”