Yes, it is true. The husband is responsible to set a tone of love in a marriage by loving his wife as Christ loved the church and by loving his wife as he loves himself (Eph 5). However, we will leave the discussion of important biblical truth for another time. In this series we are looking at the Protocols for Christian relationships and investigating the application of them to the Christian marriage relationship.
Here is a synoptic view of loving one another. Paul says in Romans 13:8 that we should owe nothing to anyone except to love one another. John (I John 3:11, 23) indicates that the message of God from the beginning is that we should love one other. Again in I John 4:7 we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Peter joins Paul and John when he writes, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again… “(I Peter 1:22) . Finally, Jesus indicates that loving one another is the essence of demonstrating that we are Christians. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Now I can hear the objections. Yes, but all this is talking about the body of Christ. Wait! Are you telling me that the way I love my neighbor is the same kind of love I am to have for my wife? This does not make sense. If I follow this logic every woman or man in my realm of influence becomes like a mate to me. Any simple person knows that is not the case. Perhaps you can add a few more objections.
Obviously there are some additional dimensions to the love of a husband and wife. There is an emotional connection that morphs into a desire for total intimacy that is experienced in sexual union. However, a relationship in which love is not experienced between mates as that love embodied in the command to love one another will soon lose the luster of those special dimensions of marital love. I see couples in counseling regularly who have not practiced the “love one another” dimensions of love and as a consequence have lost the special dimensions of marital love. They no longer even think of each other as friends and are only in my office because they are Christians with an obligation to God to not divorce.
So what is it about the Protocol of “love one another” that is so critical to the love of husband and wife for one another? There are three dimensions to the Protocol that when practiced in a marriage insure that the marital dimensions will stay fresh.
The first dimension is commitment to obedience. This very simply can be stated this way. God commanded it, I am responsible, and that settles it. In other words, when I don’t feel like loving my wife, I will love her. Maybe she forgot to mail the package I left with her this morning and now it will cost me an overdue fine on the book. My natural inclination is to unkindly rebuke her. If I do, she will be hurt. She will then withdraw and I will be further frustrated by her. When this cycle occurs with regularity, some cells in the romantic love brain die. I have failed to love her out of commitment (Protocol: “love one another”) and as a result have damaged the special dimension of marital love.
The second dimension is a commitment to the other person first. That is, I will put the desires or needs of the other person above my own. This dimension of the injunction to love one another is often distorted. It is not a matter of giving away all I have to others because they do not have what I have. In fact, such a distortion often leads to enabling or destroying of incentive on the part of others. For example, if I own a home and my son does not it is not loving him to sell my home to buy him one. In marriage a commitment to putting the other person first has many applications. For example, my wife is a homemaker. Putting her first for me is giving her tastes deference. Or another illustration is this. She is a very neat and organized person—a place for everything and everything in its place. A commitment to her is respecting this. She reciprocates by a commitment to me by not practicing her trade in my office.
The third dimension is a commitment to action. To put it simply, to love one another is not a matter only of affirming words, but the taking of action to put love for the other to work. When a friend’s son went to college he could not, even with two jobs, earn a sufficient income to cover the expense. About that time the owner of a Denny’s franchise and he called his wife to ask if she would consider training to become a manager for him. She concluded that out of love for her husband (and in this case, her son also) she would accept the challenge.
He reported that the emotional love of their marital relationship was actually invigorated by her taking this challenge. He was all the more conscientious about carrying out the Protocol to love one another as was she. Their spiritual sharing retained vitality and the new circumstances generated a more conscious dependence upon the Lord for both of them. Their communication, which was always good, became even better. His appreciation for her, which was always high, became even more intense. Their affection for one another was intensified. Even in the midst of the increased energy demands, their physical relationship retained viability.
Here is the bottom line. The Protocol to love one another is the foundation for the intimate love of the husband and wife relationship.