I’m not much into recipes, but if you’re looking for one to build a lifelong love between husband and wife, you couldn’t do much better than 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Paul doesn’t limit his words to just marriage in this passage, but when looked at in the context of marriage, it’s marvelous:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
Be on your guard.
We have to be vigilant: over our hearts, which can be led astray; over our thinking, which can become negative or defeatist; and over the enemy, who seeks to divide and destroy us. There are so many enemies out there trying to ensure that naïve couples won’t become mature couples. It doesn’t take any vigilance to fall in love, but it takes constant vigilance to stay in love.
Stand firm in the faith.
In a sacred marriage, if we lose our faith, we lose our love. Our faith is what sustains our love. It’s the reason for our love. It’s the source and strength and purpose of our love. The best way to love your spouse is to love God first, in all things.
Be people of courage.
It takes courage to live in a sacred marriage: the courage to lovingly confront, when appropriate, but also the courage to receive a confrontation; the courage to take a risk when God leads you to do something that sounds so out there, you can hardly believe it; the courage to say “no” to everything you want when what you want isn’t what God wants—it takes guts to walk away from something that you think offers happiness but that God clearly is shutting down.
Sacred marriage can serve wimps, but only if they are determined to become spiritually strong. We need strength to forgive, strength to pursue intimacy, strength to persevere if we are carrying our marriage seemingly by ourselves (but always with God within us, of course). It takes strength to push through apathy, to fight back physical weariness and spiritual temptations to become one as a couple. You don’t need to be strong already to start pursuing a sacred marriage, but the pursuit will make you strong, if you let it.
Do everything in love.
This sums it up, doesn’t it? Whenever we speak, we are motivated by love—words released to heal, not to harm. When we serve, it is for the other’s good, not to manipulate or make someone our debtor. If we confront, it is out of true, holy love, not to condemn or judge. A sacred marriage calls us to be people who know we are deeply loved by God, who open our hearts, daily, to receive his love, who live empowered by his love, and who are passionate about spreading that love. We become a people carried by love.
So, you want a “how to”? a “holy recipe for lifelong love”? There it is, straight from the mouth of God: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com
Be sure to check out Gary’s new marriage book, A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is About More Than Just Staying Together? Read the first chapter, and hear Gary talk about why he wrote it, at www.alifelonglove.com.