Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not puffed up; it does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered; it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
In 1 Corinthians 13, every characteristic of love listed is in a verb form. Love is not static. Love acts. Love does something. Love is always a verb; it is always acting on someone.
We have been given the capacity to love like this by the Holy Spirit. Because we have been transformed and born again, the Spirit of God has come into us, we have received the fruit of the Spirit which is love, and we can share that love.
If you are a Christian, you cannot come along and say, “I’m sorry, I really tried to love her, but I don’t have the capability.” Yes, you do. That supernatural, spiritual love is there if you choose to exercise it.
And it is a love that is not dependent on the object. It’s not dependent on physical appearance. I hear so much about that today — someone’s figure or someone’s looks. It’s not dependent on that. It is dependent on the one who loves.
And Paul says, “Love does not seek its own.” It never wants revenge. It never wants retaliation. To put it simply, love forgives everything done against it. The loving person doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
What destroys marriages is unforgiveness. If you continually forgive one another all the time, there’s no record of wrong kept, and there’s no accumulation of a wall. Nothing is more important in your marriage than forgiveness — instant, spontaneous, complete forgiveness, so that it’s never brought up again. This way you won’t accumulate the devastating attitudes of bitterness and retaliation and revenge that destroy a relationship.
When a man is Spirit-filled, when he is so filled with joy and gratitude to God for all that Christ has done and when he loves his wife as himself, he will sacrifice himself for her. And then his authority will be soft, warm, affirming, and secure, and she will follow if she is obedient to God’s plan for her.
Men, when was the last time you made a sacrifice for your wife? I’m not talking about something trivial — something significant. Have you crucified self, setting something aside to focus on her?
I know many men are anxious to be leaders and spiritual giants. They want to appear as if they’re in control of everything and a pious leader of the family. But true spirituality is really death to self.
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the real strong spiritual leader in a family, because he’s humble. He’s taking up his cross daily. He’s denying self. He’s looking not on his own things but on the things of others, esteeming others better than himself. He’s setting aside his desires for her. And it may well be that he appears weak, when in fact he’s strong.
Death to self is the real issue. Somewhere along your pilgrimage as a Christian, you need to learn to die to yourself regularly. It saves you from being defensive, revengeful, retaliatory, and hostile, accumulating a list of things against you.
When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely set aside, and you sting with the insult, but your heart is happy and you count it a privilege to suffer for Christ, that is dying to self.
When your good is evil spoken of, when she misunderstands you, when your desires are not interesting to her, when your advice is disregarded, and your opinions are ridiculed, and when you are mistreated or misunderstood, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, that is dying to self.
When you lovingly, patiently bear any disruption, any irregularity, any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with folly, waste, extravagance, and insensitivity and endure it as Jesus endured it, that is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, any clothes, any climate, any society, any interruption, or any solitude, that is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in a conversation, or to record and recite your own good works, or to pursue commendation — when you can truly love to be unrecognized for something good, that is dying to self.
When you see someone else prosper, someone else reach goals that you desire, and you can honestly rejoice with that other person and not question God, that is dying to self.
And, gentlemen, when you can receive correction and reproof from your wife, and humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, feeling no resentment rising within your heart, that is dying to self.
That’s what makes you the leader God wants you to be in your home: It’s when self dies. To constantly deny yourself is a great spiritual challenge. But that’s what God calls for. And when you lead in an environment of love and self-denial, you create the atmosphere that a woman longs for.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1996, titled “God’s Pattern for Husbands, Part 1.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at www.masters.edu.
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