The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate love story. Wouldn’t that make John 3:16 a source of guidance for love in marriage?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
This single verse is “the heart of the Bible, the Gospel in miniature,” according to the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther. It’s this Gospel that released Martin from the vow of celibacy he took as a Catholic monk, and opened the door for him to marry a runaway nun.
That’s another love story!
Before Martin understood the Gospel, a feeling of overwhelming oppression clung to him like a ball in chain. His faith struggled to survive against a religion that brought more grief than hope. He felt unloved and alone.
Discovering the true Gospel freed Martin from oppression. In its place, he received God’s love. Happiness filled his heart. Healing came to his soul. And he met and married the woman he’d spend the rest of his life loving–Katie von Bora, whom he called “Katie.”
How many marriages break down because one or both partners feel burdened by the other–oppressed–broken-hearted–hopeless–unloved? Martin’s marriage overcame or avoided these causes of despair. He understood the influence the Gospel should have on a marriage. Martin is credited with writing these words:
Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
Martin and Katie’s marriage had few luxuries. They did have a roof over their heads, and food to eat. But they worked hard, and faced threats from princes and priests because of their firm opposition to corruption in government and church.
In spite of the challenges they faced from the world, their love for each other remained strong, and they cherished the time they shared together, fueled by the Gospel of John 3:16.
Here’s how it can work for you and me…
1. True love gives generously.
Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” The book of John, from which this passage is taken, begins by claiming that Jesus has always been with God and is God (John 1:1).
God loved the world, and God gave Himself as an expression of His love.
Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13). So shouldn’t a husband who loves his wife be willing to lay down his life for her? Shouldn’t a wife be willing to do the same for her husband?
True love is willing to give everything. Sometimes it does.
In 2011, the 200 mile-per-hour winds of a tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri. As the winds ripped apart their home, Don and Bethany Lansaw frantically looked for a hiding place.
Stephanie climbed in to their bathtub, and lay there face down with her hands covering the back of her head. Her husband Don lay down on top of her, using his body as a shield against splinters of wood , shards of glass and other debris as their home disintegrated around them.
When the winds died down, Bethany turned her face toward Don’s and saw that he was turning blue. A piece of wood had punctured his back.
Don died from his injury.
Bethany says he was full of so much love, he wouldn’t have wanted to die any other way, but by saving his wife’s life.
Is your love for your husband or wife strong enough that you’d die for him or her? What perspective does that kind of love put on everything else in life?
2. True love dies to self.
My marriage was breaking down. I thought my wife Tami was the one that needed to change. She said I had an anger problem. I told her she needed to change the way she acted toward me…then I wouldn’t get angry.
When Tami asked me to go to counseling with her, I hesitated. But as I thought about it, it occurred to me that if I really loved her I could put my self-pride aside and go with her. After all, she needed to get help.
The truth is I knew I had problems. I didn’t want to admit it.
True love doesn’t let pride and self-interest harden our hearts against the needs and interests of others.
Counseling helped me to come to terms with my problems, and overcome them. I no longer needed to hide them.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT).
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22 NLT).
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her (Ephesians 5:25 NLT).
3. True love looks beyond the moment.
We often live as this is life is all there is. If you’re a Christian, you know there is more. The more you give in this life, the more you can expect in the next (Matthew 16:25).
When God faced an eternity without you, He chose to give His life hoping that you would choose to give yours to Him in return.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).
Think about what eternity would be like without your husband or wife. How much of your life are you willing to give to avoid being separated forever?