Love, “a Perfect Bond of Union”
1-6. (a) What can happen when marriage mates are too involved with their own feelings? (b) Heeding what Scriptural principles could prevent the buildup of a serious argument?
‘WHY can’t we ever have supper on time?’ her husband snapped, tired of waiting and worn out after a hard day’s work.
2 ‘Quit complaining. It’s almost ready,’ she flared back. Her day had not been easy either.
3 ‘But you’re always late. Why can’t you ever be on time?’
4 ‘That’s not true!’ she shouted. ‘But if you’d try to take care of the children someday, you wouldn’t complain so much. After all, they’re your children too!’
5 So between husband and wife this molehill grows into a mountain, leaving both of them angry and not speaking to each other. Each one reacts to the other’s responses, until both are hurt and resentful, and their evening is spoiled. Either one could have prevented this buildup. As it was, both were too involved with their own feelings and oblivious to those of their mate. Frayed nerves snapped.
6 Such problems can arise in many areas. They might involve money. Or the husband might feel that his wife is overly possessive, not letting him enjoy the company of other people. She might feel neglected and taken for granted. Tension could exist because of a big problem or several minor ones. Whatever the case may be, our concern right now is how the situation is to be approached. Either mate can stop the buildup toward trouble by being willing to ‘turn the other cheek,’ being willing not to “return evil for evil,” but instead ‘conquering the evil with good.’ (Matthew 5:39; Romans 12:17, 21) To be able to do this takes restraint and maturity. It takes Christian love.
WHAT LOVE REALLY MEANS
7-9. (a) How is love described at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? (b) What kind of love is this?
7 Jehovah God inspired a definition of love, in terms of what it is and what it is not, at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
8 Love may be based on many things—physical attraction, family relationship or mutual enjoyment of another’s companionship. But the Bible shows that, to be of true value, love must go beyond affection or mutual attraction and be governed by what is for the highest good of the loved one. That kind of love can even call for reproving or disciplining, as a parent might do with a child, or as Jehovah God does with his worshipers. (Hebrews 12:6) Feelings and emotion are there, of course, but they are not allowed to overrule wise judgment or right principles in dealing with others. That kind of love moves one to treat all according to fine principles of consideration and fairness.
9 To appreciate more fully how it can benefit our family life, let us consider in greater detail the definition given at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
10, 11. What would we expect from a marriage mate who is long-suffering and kind?
10 “Love is long-suffering and kind.” Are you long-suffering with your mate? Even when a situation tends to provoke, and perhaps unfair accusations are made, do you exercise restraint? Jehovah is long-suffering with all of us, and ‘the kindly quality of God is trying to lead persons to repentance.’ Both long-suffering and kindness are fruits of God’s spirit.—Romans 2:4; Galatians 5:22.
11 Love does not approve of wrongdoing, but it is not “picky.” It is not impatient. It takes into account extenuating circumstances. (1 Peter 4:8; Psalm 103:14; 130:3, 4) And even in serious matters it is ready to extend forgiveness. The apostle Peter doubtless thought he was being long-suffering when he asked Jesus: “How many times is my brother to sin against me and am I to forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus’ answer was: “Not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21, 22; Luke 17:3, 4) Love forgives repeatedly, and is kind endlessly. Are you?
12, 13. How may jealousy manifest itself, and why should efforts be made to keep it in check?
12 “Love is not jealous.” It is difficult to live with a mate who is jealous without genuine cause. Such jealousy is suspicious, overly possessive. It is childish and restrains the other person from being natural and friendly around others. Happiness is in giving freely, not in meeting a jealous demand.
13 “Who can stand before jealousy?” the Bible asks. It is one of the works of the imperfect flesh. (Proverbs 27:4; Galatians 5:19, 20) Are you able to detect in yourself any signs of the kind of jealousy that results from a feeling of insecurity and is fed by imagination? It usually is not hard to see the flaws in another person, but we profit more when we examine ourselves. “Where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.” (James 3:16) Jealousy can wreck a marriage. Your mate will not be held safe by jealous restrictions, but by loving attention, by consideration and trust.
14, 15. (a) How does bragging show a lack of love? (b) Instead of belittling one’s mate, what should one do?
14 Love “does not brag, does not get puffed up.” It is true that many persons do it, but few people like to hear bragging. In fact, it may embarrass anyone who knows the braggart well. While some persons brag by talking about themselves in a boastful manner, others accomplish the same thing in another way. They criticize and run down others, and by comparison this tends to elevate them above their victims. So, a person may elevate himself by lowering others. Belittling one’s mate is really a way of bragging about oneself.
15 Have you ever found yourself talking in public about the shortcomings of your mate? How do you think it made your mate feel? What if you had been the one whose flaws were being exposed? How would you have felt? Loved? No, love “does not brag,” either by praising self or by belittling others. When talking about your mate, be upbuilding; it will strengthen the bond between you. And as for what is said about yourself, apply the wise counsel found at Proverbs 27:2: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”—Revised Standard Version.
16. What are some indecencies that a loving person would avoid?
16 Love “does not behave indecently.” There are many things that are strikingly indecent, such as adultery, drunkenness and fits of anger. (Romans 13:13) In contrast with love, all of these cause damage to the marriage bond. Rudeness, vulgar speech and actions, as well as neglecting personal cleanliness, all show a lack of human decency. How careful are you to avoid being offensive to your mate in this regard? Do you treat him or her with consideration, good manners, respect? All these things contribute to a marriage that is happy, one that endures.
17. How can quarrels be avoided by a person not looking for his own interests?
17 Love “does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked.” It is not self-centered. How much better it would have been if the couple mentioned at the beginning of this chapter had been that way. The husband would not have snapped at his wife because supper was late, and she would not have flared back. If the wife had discerned that his irritation was partly because he was tired, instead of being provoked she might have replied: ‘Supper is almost ready. You must have had a hard day at work. Let me give you a cool glass of juice to drink while I put things on the table.’ Or if the husband had been more understanding, not thinking only of himself, he might have asked whether there was anything that he could do to help.
18. How can love prevent one from becoming provoked?
18 Are you easily provoked by something your mate says or does, or do you try to discern the intent behind the word or act? Maybe it was innocent, only thoughtlessness, and no offense was intended. If you have love, ‘the sun won’t set with you in a provoked state.’ (Ephesians 4:26) What if your mate felt frustrated, and really did mean to say or do something that would hurt? Can’t you wait until tempers cool and discuss it then? Approaching the situation with the best interests of both at heart will help you to say the right thing. “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight.” “The one covering over transgression is seeking love,” not stirring up more strife. (Proverbs 16:23; 17:9) By fighting down the impulse to continue an argument and prove yourself right, you can gain a victory in favor of love.
19. (a) What might be included in ‘rejoicing over unrighteousness’? (b) Why should this be avoided?
19 Real love “does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” It does not think it clever to deceive one’s mate—whether as to the use of one’s time, the spending of money, or in one’s associations. It does not employ half-truths in order to appear righteous. Dishonesty destroys confidence. For there to be genuine love, both of you must rejoice to communicate the truth.
TRUE LOVE HAS STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE
20. How does love (a) ‘bear all things’? (b) ’believe all things’? (c) ‘hope all things’? (d) ‘endure all things’?
20 “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” It bears up under the stresses and strains put upon it in marriage, while the two in this close relationship learn to be flexible and adjust to each other. It believes all the counsel set out in God’s Word and earnestly applies it, even when circumstances seem to be unfavorable. And, while not being gullible in dealing with persons who resort to dishonesty, it is not unduly suspicious. Rather, it displays trust. Moreover, it hopes for the best. Such hope is based on the confident assurance that applying Bible counsel will yield the best results possible. Thus, love can be positive, optimistic and forward looking. Also, it is not fickle, nor is it a passing infatuation. Real love endures, facing up to problems when the going is hard. It has staying power. It is strong; but with all its strength, it is kind, gentle, yielding, easy to live with.
21, 22. What are some circumstances illustrating that love never fails?
21 Such “love never fails.” If hard times press the couple into financial straits, what happens? Instead of thinking about finding an easier life somewhere else, the wife who has such love loyally sticks with her mate, seeking to economize and perhaps to supplement her husband’s income. (Proverbs 31:18, 24) But what if the wife becomes afflicted with an illness that is prolonged for years? The husband who has this kind of love does all he can to provide the care she needs, to help out with work at home that she is not now able to do, and to provide assurance of his continued devotion. God himself sets the example in this regard. No matter what the circumstances into which his faithful servants come, ‘nothing can separate them from God’s love.’—Romans 8:38, 39.
22 What problems could prevail over a love like that? Does your marriage have it? Do you personally practice it?
MAKING LOVE GROW
23. What determines whether we are going to do the loving thing?
23 Love, like a muscle, is strengthened by use. On the other hand, love, like faith, is dead without works. Words and acts, motivated by feelings deep within us, are said to come from the heart, representing our inner motivation. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure sends out good things.” But if the feelings within us are wicked, “out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies.”—Matthew 12:34, 35; 15:19; James 2:14-17.
24, 25. How can you strengthen your motivation to show love?
24 What thoughts and feelings do you cultivate in your heart? If you daily meditate on the ways in which God has shown love, and seek to imitate his example, fine motivations will be strengthened. The more you exercise this love, the more you act and speak in harmony with it, the more deeply inscribed it will become on your heart. Daily practice of it in little things will make such love habitual. Then, when occasional big issues arise, this love will be there, strongly entrenched, to help you to cope with them.—Luke 16:10.
25 Do you notice something commendable in your mate? Give voice to it! Do you have an impulse to do a kindness? Obey that impulse! We must show love in order to reap it. Practicing these things will bring you and your mate closer, make the two of you one, make the love between you grow.
26, 27. How does sharing things increase one’s love?
26 To increase love, share it. The first man, Adam, lived in a paradise. All his physical needs were bountifully supplied. From the start he was surrounded by beauty. Not only were there meadows and flowers, woodlands and streams, but also there was an abundant variety of animal life subject to his domination as earth’s caretaker. Yet with all of this, one need was not met: someone human with whom to share this paradise of beauty. Have you ever been alone as you gazed in amazement at a spectacular sunset, and wished that a loved one were there to share it with you? Or have you had exciting good news, but no one to tell it to? Jehovah God discerned Adam’s need, and provided him a mate with whom to share his thoughts and feelings. Sharing brings two persons together, and helps love to take root and grow.
27 Marriage is sharing. Perhaps there is an affectionate glance across the room, a touch, a soft word, even sitting peacefully together without speaking. Every act can manifest love: making a bed, washing the dishes, saving to buy something that she wants but won’t ask for because of the budget, helping with the other’s work when he or she is behind. Love means sharing the work and the play, the troubles and the joys, the accomplishments and the failures, the thoughts of the mind and the feelings of the heart. Share common goals, and reach them together. This is what makes two people one; this is what makes love grow.
28. How does serving promote love?
28 Serving your mate can help your love for him to mature. A wife commonly serves by cooking meals, making beds, cleaning house, washing clothes, caring for household business. The husband usually serves by providing the food she cooks, the beds she makes, the house she cleans, the clothes she washes. It is this serving, this giving, that brings happiness and nourishes love. As Jesus said, there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. Or, there is more happiness in serving than in being served. (Acts 20:35) He told his disciples that “the greatest among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11, New English Bible) That view will eliminate any spirit of competitiveness and contribute to happiness. When we serve we feel needed, we are filling a purpose, and this gives us self-respect and makes us content. Marriage gives both husband and wife ample opportunity to serve and to find such contentment, thus cementing their marriage more strongly in love.
29. Why will love appeal even to those who are not servants of God?
29 What if one of the marriage mates is a Christian servant of God who practices these Biblical principles, but the other is not? Does this change the way a Christian should act? Not basically. There may not be as much talk about God’s purposes on the part of the Christian, but the conduct is the same. The unbelieving mate has the same basic needs as a worshiper of Jehovah, and in some respects reacts in the same way. This is stated at Romans 2:14, 15: “Whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.” Exemplary Christian conduct will usually be appreciated and will make love grow.
30. Is love to be displayed only under dramatic circumstances? Why do you so answer?
30 Love does not wait for dramatic circumstances to reveal itself. In some respects, love is like clothing. What holds your clothing together? A few big knots tied with rope? Or thousands of little stitches of thread? The thousands of little stitches, and that is true whether we speak of literal clothing or spiritual “garments.” It is the continuing accumulation of small words and acts manifested daily that “clothe” us and reveal what we are. Such spiritual “clothing” will not wear out and become valueless as does physical clothing. It is, as the Bible says, “incorruptible apparel.”—1 Peter 3:4.
31 Do you want your marriage to be held together by “a perfect bond of union”? Then do as recommended at Colossians 3:9, 10, 12, 14: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality . . . clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering . . . clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”