How to Have a Great Marriage (part three)

A couple posts ago, we mentioned that love is not a requirement for God to recognize a marriage as valid.  And that’s true. Love isn’t a requirement for God to join two people together (Matthew 19:4-5).

However, it IS a requirement for your marriage to be pleasing to God, to be a God-Honoring marriage.

Love your spouse.

What kind of love?

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I love pizza. They’ll also tell you that I love my kids. But obviously these aren’t the same kind of love.

Even in the Bible, there are different kinds of love.

  • The Pharisees LOVE to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners (Matthew 6:5).
  • Thou shalt LOVE the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matthew 22:37).
  • Beware of the scribes which LOVE to go in long clothing, and LOVE salutations in the marketplace (Mark 12:38).

Three different verses, three different Greek words that are translated “love.”

In the New Testament, there are generally two different words for “love.”

Agape – This is the most common word which is translated LOVE in the New Testament. It means a conscious decision to put someone else first. It is sacrificial. It is what God has towards us (John 3:16) and what we are to have towards God (Matthew 22:37).

Phileo – This word shows friendship. It shows enjoying something. It might be better translated as “like”, as in “I like this.” We sing, “I’ll be a friend to Jesus,” and that is exactly what is commanded of us (I Corinthians 16:22 – If any man does not love [LIKE–phileo] the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema). It is what Jesus is to us, if we obey Him (John 15:14 – Ye are my friends [LIKED ONES–philos] if ye keep what I have commanded you).

But what kind of love are you supposed to have for your spouse? The answer may surprise you!

You must show agape love towards your spouse.

Husbands are commanded to AGAPE their wife (Ephesians 5:28).

Husbands must stop thinking about themselves and put their wife’s needs first. That means her physical needs (provide food, shelter, clothing). That means her emotional needs (which falls under showing her “respect”). That means her spiritual needs—many women are not being led spiritually by their husband.

How can a husband show this love?

Lots of ways—but it’s not the one-time acts that matter. It’s the constant, day-in and day-out acts that show you truly have AGAPE for your wife.  Changing diapers. Carrying the groceries. Helping with housework. Turning off the TV and just talking with her. Taking care of the kids so she can rest.

And it’s doing these things with no strings attached.

John spent a couple hours cleaning the kitchen and living room of his house. Then his wife comes home, and he helps her carry in the groceries. She smiles, and he says, “I’m going to the ballgame with the boys.” She objects, “but we were going to have a nice quiet night at home.” He says, “Look, I cleaned the living room and the kitchen. What else do you want from me?”

He did those things, not out of love, but because he expected something in return.

Wives must show agape love towards their husband (John 15:12).

Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  This applies to everyone, including wives.  This means that wives are to show AGAPE to others—including her husband.

It is interesting that there is no direct command “wives, AGAPE your husband.”  We can deduce that it’s necessary from other passages (love thy neighbor as thyself, for example). All the “love one another” passages prove that a wife must show AGAPE to her husband.

God made a specific command for husbands to AGAPE their wife. In fact, it’s stated point-blank multiple times in the Bible (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33, Colossians 3:19).

A marriage where both spouses show this love for each other will grow, and it will be a blessing to both of them.

“The Gift of the Magi” is a great story about a man and his wife. It’s Christmastime, but they are very poor. They want so desperately to get a gift—a meaningful gift—for the other, but neither can afford it. The husband has an old gold pocket watch that he got from his father. It’s the most important possession he has in the whole world. But he takes it and pawns it so that he can buy his wife a new hairbrush to use on her long hair. A bit later, the wife comes into the house. He presents her with the brush and she begins to cry. She takes the scarf off of her head, and he sees that her long hair is gone. She had cut it off and sold it so she could afford to buy him a gift—a gold chain to use for his pocket watch.

Love is putting your spouse first.

You must show PHILEO love towards your spouse.

God commands that you be friends with your spouse. God commands that you enjoy their company. God commands that you LIKE them.

Wait a second, how can God tell me to like them if I don’t like them?

You know, if you become the spouse YOU’RE supposed to be, it’s likely that they will be more like the spouse THEY’RE supposed to be. And liking them will come naturally.

And honestly, especially in America, if you’re married to them, that means you like them—or at least you did at one point. God’s just telling you to keep liking them.

Wives are to LIKE their husbands (Titus 2:4).

The older women were to teach the younger women to love (PHILEO) their husbands.

In a society that encourages women to complain about their husbands, to stand up to them, don’t take no garbage from them, women’s lib and all that stuff…it’s important that we teach our girls that they are supposed to love their husbands—to like their husbands. To enjoy their company. To be friends with them.

Sometimes that’s a hard thing to do. More than once, you’ve probably heard (or maybe even said) the words, “I still love you, but I don’t like you right now.”

If you don’t like your husband, then repent and start being his friend again.

Acts 28:2 translates this same word as “kindness.” It means showing kindness—being a friend.

Husbands are to LIKE their wives.

Just as there is no direct statement that wives are supposed to AGAPE their husbands, there is no direct statement that husbands are to LIKE their wives.

However, if both are Christians (which is how it should be), the following verses settle the matter:

  • Be kindly affectioned one toward another with brotherly love (PHILEO for your brethren in Christ) in honor, preferring one another. (Romans 12:10)
  • Let brotherly love continue (Hebrews 13:1).

The Scriptures specifically say that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).

The Scriptures also tell us that Christ is a friend to His people—the church (John 15:15).

If you love your spouse with AGAPE love, true love with no strings attached, your marriage will be happier and healthier.  If you make it a point to be a friend with your spouse, your marriage will be stronger for it.

Now don’t go home today and say, “honey, you need to read this article on You need to start loving me better and being a better friend.”


It all starts with YOU. YOU do your part. No strings attached. YOU do it. YOU be the one you’re supposed to be.  If you do that, you may be very surprised at how much they start to change as well.

Almost all troubled marriages are missing something. Respect has gone AWOL. Love—both kinds—has been replaced with anger and hatred. And if those things aren’t changed—if love and respect aren’t brought back into the marriage, it will fail.

A man and woman are sitting at the kitchen table. On her plate is a piece of toast—the end piece. She hates the end piece, and finally, after years of her husband giving it to her, she erupts. “Why do you hate me? You give me this stinking end piece of the bread every time. I HATE the end piece, yet you insist on giving it to me for the whole ten years we’ve been married. Why? WHY?!?” After the initial shock subsides, he looks over at her and says, “I didn’t know you didn’t like it. You never told me. I wish you would have. The end has always been my favorite.”

Jesus loves you. And He expects you to show that same love to others—especially your spouse.

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