Chapter 8 - Marital Adversity Can Be Avoided

Marital Adversity Can Be Avoided

mutual obedience to scripture creates
an excellent marriage

There is really only one secret to an excellent marriage and that is love.1

To be the recipient of the gift of sincere human love is marvelous. To be loved is like listeningtransfixedto a beautiful song, to be carried by its music and lost in its poetry is a rare gift indeed. To hear that song is life-changing. But to be the singer is an experience beyond all measure.

Love was made to be given away. It is like a diamond set in an engagement ring. It has only one use to the suitor and that is to be given away.

But what is this thing called love that becomes the center of life but which we can neither create nor acquire on our own? What is this thing that can be the apex of human experience or the deepest of human pain? What is this elusive and beautiful thing? Scripture tells us what it is, and scripture tells us how to acquire it and how to keep it. If we understand what scripture says about it and yield our will to God, we can acquire it and we can keep it.

Let us first consider what love is.

Biblical Greek has four different words for love. But English and some other languages have only one word for love and they use that one word ("love") to translate all of the different kinds of loves in the Bible. So when we read “love” in an English Bible, it could be referring to any one of the loves. If we are to understand what the Bible is saying about love, we must understand what these four loves are and where the words are used because they can't always be distinguished by the context. Three of the loves can often be distinguished by who it is who is loved. But the fourth love is drastically different from the others.

The first love is the love of friends. This Greek word is φιλία, or “philia.” This is the word from which we derive “Philedelpia,” The City of Brotherly Love. Philea is the love between friends.

The second love is the love of family. This Greek word is στοργή, or “storgé.” Storgé is the natural love of parents for children and children for parents and siblings and other family members or between people who found themselves together for some reason.2

The third is the love of lovers. This Greek word is έρως, or “eros.” Eros is the romantic love of lovers; it is a love that may or may not be expressed by physical intimacy.

These three loves are human loves and they are given to all of us. They are indeed beautiful, but they are limited as we are limited. They are human loves and they originate in us. But the Fourth Love is different.

The Fourth Love

The fourth love different because it is supernatural.

The fourth love is άγάπη, or “agápe.”3 The distinguishing characteristic of agápe is that it does not require anything in return. It is the purest form of love. Agápe is love that loves the unloveable. It is agápe that brought Jesus to the cross and sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world,4 which necessarily included the sins committed by the very persons who crucified Him.5 Agape is supernatural love. We know this because God is supernatural and God is agápe:

God is Love [agápe]6

It is here, at agápe, that the spiritual reality of the presence of God becomes transformed into human experience, where faith becomes perception and where peace passes all understanding.7 It is here, and only here, that God makes Himself known to us when we express our love to Him by obedience.

Christ tells us plainly how we are to relate to God and how we can know Him:

"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."8

And it results in God making His abode (His home) with us spiritually:

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep my words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.9

Agápe is the oxygen of the experiential presence of God and agape is the key to the other three loves. It is a relationship based upon the expression of our love through obedience. We obey; and He makes Himself known to us. We see Him; we love Him more, and He comes closer. It is a magnificent dynamic, a spiral going upward. To know God is to experience eternal life here and now:

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.10

Without love and obedience and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, God does not make Himself known. It is for this reason that those who have never trusted in Christ have absolutely no idea of what really happens to committed, obedient believers. They actually believe that Christianity is simply a matter of believing in God or not.

Our eternal state (condemnation or eternal life) turns on what we love because what we love is what He looks at. Love is what He looks at because He is love (agape):11

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.12

Relationships ultimately turn on agape and agape is expressed by obedience. It is like any relationship: love must be expressed. Serving others in various ways is the primary way that we express love to others. Serving God by obeying Him is the way that we express our love to Him. It is the way that we express our appreciation for what Christ did for us. It is the way that we express true worship, and in doing so acknowledge that He is indeed God. God will always be God, but unless we acknowledge by our sincere actions, by our choices, that He is our God, He will respect our choice and He will not be our God. He will be as distant from us as we are from Him. Knowing Him is a spiritual love affair.

Obedience without love is called legalism, and legalism does not provide the predicate necessary for experiential presence of God. God is not interested in us doing everything right. He is interested in us loving Him and loving one another and expressing that love by sincere fidelity, honesty, generosity, kindness, service, encouragement-by expressing that love by righteousness, which is obedience to His word.

The message of these scriptures is crystal clear. One apes God (loves God) by obeying Him. And obedience means to relinquish sin. Unquestioned obedience is an act of faith and without faith, it is impossible to please Him:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.13

First Corinthians 13 describes what ape is:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not agape, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not agape, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor , and though I give my body to be burned, and have not agape, it profits me nothing.

Agape suffers long, and is kind; agape envies not; agape vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;

Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Agape never fails…14

Thus, we see that 1) ape is extremely important because we are nothing without it; 2) ape is complete acceptance because it bears all things and 3) agape is completely unconditional because it endures all things. Agape is therefore the “love of all loves.”

The fact that God is this love speaks volumes toward who God is.15 God is an unconditional lover, and one does not know God without loving:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love [agape].16

This fact has everything to do with marriage because the only thing that can really make a marriage work is love. And we can choose to love by acquiring ape to light the original fire.

Why Agape is Important to Marriage

None of the four loves is limited to themselves. For instance, we may love a cousin with both the love of family and the love of friends and in such a case two loves become one greater love. The love of family is enhanced by the love of a friend and vice versa. Or one’s spouse may be a best friend as well as a lover.

The same is true for agápe. It can be generalized as well and it can be expressed either by itself or through any of the other three loves. It is like a stem-cell; it can grow into whatever love it finds itself to be. But agápe, being God, is infinitely powerful. Ape is like a massive reservoir that becomes phileo if the love is of a friend, storge if the love is of family or eros if the love is the love of lovers. Or, in the case of the Christian marriage, Ape empowers all four loves, so that the Christian lover can love with all four loves at once. Like the miracle of the water changed into wine, agápe mixed with the other (human) loves transforms them into something far greater. For instance, when agape is united with eros it becomes intoxicating. For many this lovely intoxication begins the instant that the lovers kneel down together and go to Him.

Ape expressed through the love of lovers creates a bond of immense power and iron fidelity; it is a self-sacrificing love that is supernatural. When both spouses possess it and each one loves with it and is loved by it, it becomes impregnable to any external force.17 It is at once supernatural and emotional; and vulnerable and powerful, peaceful and magnificent. It is intimacy on both the physical and the spiritual planes at the same time. To love with such power and to be loved in return in a righteous Christian marriage is the capstone of all human experience and second only to knowing Christ.

The secret to an excellent marriage is love that knows no bounds, love that is both endless and inexhaustible. Love like this occurs only when agape is mixed with the other three loves. That mixture occurs with righteousness because it is yielding to scripture that opens the door to the presence of God and His agape.

The reader is again directed to the work entitled Endless Love for a deeper study of human love, its loss and its restoration.

1. See the work entitled Endless Love by the author. This work discusses the scriptural nature of relationships and healing of marital discord and expands upon this chapter.

2. Although this word is not used in scripture, it is included in the Greek language used in Biblical times.

3. Agápe is translated “charity” in the King James Version.

4. First John 2:2 "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

5. Romans 5:6 “But God commendeth His love [agápe] toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

6. First John 4:8

7. Philippians 4:7 " And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

8. John 14:21 (NASV)

9. John 14:23

10. John 17:3 (NASV)

11. First John 4:8 "God is love [agape]."

12. John 3:19 " And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

13. Hebrews 11:6

14. First Corinthians 13:1-8 Each instance of "love" in First Corinthians is agápe, so First Corinthians describes agápe. It is for this reason that the love described in First Corinthians 13 seems so very out of reach. It is God's love and it can therefore be acquired only with the presence of God.

15. God certainly has other characteristics as well. But the scriptures that describe these other characteristics generally describe how God acts; they tell of what He does or what He is like. For instance, God is just and punishes sin but He also forgives. He is patient and at the same time He is fearsome. But none of these scriptures say that He is any of those things. There is no scripture that says that God is kindness, or that God is mercy. He is kind and merciful, to be sure, but there is not scripture that says that God is kindness or mercy. There are scriptures saying that God is just, but they do not say that God is justice. Or, a scripture may state that vengeance belongs to Him, but there is no scripture that says God is vengeance. First John 4:8 is the only scripture that states that God is something. And it is immensely significant that the one word that scripture uses to describe what God isis love, agápe. It is here, at agápe, where we find the most fundamental reality of who He really is and it is here that we can relate to Him.

16. First John 4:8

17. First Corinthians 13:8 “Charity [agápe] never fails”