From the family photo album, Mark and Grace in 1989 on their first Valentine's together. Here they are on their most recent one.While it only takes one spouse to be friendly, it takes both spouses to be friends. When both spouses are unfriendly, the marriage is marked by conflict and coldness. When one spouse is friendly and the other is unfriendly, the marriage is marked by selfishness and sadness. But when both spouses make a deep, heartfelt covenant with God to continually seek to become a better friend, the marriage is marked by ever-increasing longing and love. Sadly, it is common to hear married people speak of "falling out of love" with their spouse and "falling in love" with someone else in adultery. By using the language of "falling," people are cleverly avoiding any responsibility, as if they are simply required to follow their heart. However, the Bible tells us not to follow our heart, but rather "guard" it because it is prone toward selfishness and sin (Prov. 4:23; Jer. 17:9).
"Love is often first an action based upon obedience to God that results in a feeling for our spouse."According to the Bible, love does not come from our hearts, but rather through our hearts. This is because "God is love," and in relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit we receive God’s love to share with others (1 John 4:7–21). It is through the presence of God the Holy Spirit in our life that we are able to love our spouse with God’s love. Galatians 5:22 says, "the fruit of the Spirit is love." Also, Romans 5:5 says, "God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Even when we don’t feel like being loving with our spouse, we can give love to them and receive love from them if we live a Spirit-filled life. In the Bible, love is often a feeling. Rather than being a feeling that promotes action, though, it is often first an action based upon obedience to God that results in a feeling for our spouse. This explains why the Bible commands husbands to love their wives (Eph. 5:25) and wives to love their husbands (Titus 2:4), rather than commanding them to feel loving. This further explains why the Bible even commands us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43–47).
"Christian marriage is reciprocal acts of covenant love."Thus, love is a verb in the Bible. Love is what we do. Like Jesus’ love for us, marital love is a covenant commitment that compels us to act for the good of our spouse. This also explains why perhaps the most popular wedding Scripture of all time depicts love as a series of verbs, or things to be done: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:4–7). Christian marriage is reciprocal acts of covenant love. This includes the little things, such as not always getting our way but often eating at the restaurant, watching the movie, and doing the activity that our spouse likes. This also includes studying our spouse to find ways we can give love to them and receive love from them to build our friendship with them. In what ways has your spouse loved you with God’s love? In what ways have you failed to love your spouse with God’s love?
For more on Christian marriage, check out 2008's Peasant Princess sermon series, which Pastor Mark preached out of the Bible book Song of Solomon. Each of the sermons in this series also includes live Q&A with Grace joining him as they responded to questions people sent in by text message during the service.Mark Driscoll is the founding and preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church. He preaches at the Ballard campus' four services most Sundays of the year.