Can Your Family Life Be Improved?
IS YOUR family life a happy one? Or are there areas where you feel there could be improvement? What will help? Regardless of where the fault seems to lie, is there anything YOU can do that will make your marriage and family life more successful? There is. You can cement the family bonds by giving special attention to the exercise of love. Out of many good things that the Bible mentions as contributing to unity, note what it says about love, at Colossians 3:14.
What, really, is love, and how can it actually be applied so as to work effectively? We see the word “love” on billboards, scrawled on buildings, on buttons and clothing. Does this kind of “love” or this method work? No; we have to do more than talk about love. We must know what it really means and exert ourselves to apply it.
The “love” said by the Bible to be “a perfect bond of union” is translated from a Greek word (a·gaʹpe) that means more than sexual attraction. It means more than indiscriminate love of people, ignoring the right or wrong they may be practicing. This love does not ignore principle, loving just anything or anyone without guidance or purpose. Yet, it is not cold but genuinely warm and is motivated by a strong desire to promote the well-being of those whom one loves.
The Bible helps us greatly in knowing just how to apply love to make it work. But you no doubt know that a marriage where there is difficulty cannot be made completely happy within a week or even a month. The process can be likened to repairing the walls of a house that is falling apart. The love that forms a perfect bond has to be applied painstakingly just as a mason would apply mortar, brick by brick or stone by stone.
Usually cracks and rifts in a marriage take time to develop, based on a series of small irritations and disagreements. So it takes time and effort to rebuild strong family bonds. You can confidently expect results; but be patient.
Let us consider, then, what the Bible says as to love’s application, and instances wherein we can apply it. We find this careful consideration of love in the Bible at First Corinthians, chapter thirteen, verses four to eight.
First, “love is long-suffering and kind.” It puts up with unfavorable conditions, not for nothing, but with the purpose of helping everyone involved in the situation. For example, have harsh words been used by one of the marriage mates? The other could become sullen, “clam up” and refuse to talk, or could retaliate with similar harshness. But speaking kindly, even performing some service for the offending one, will nearly always make the atmosphere less tense. It is usually appreciated, although perhaps not acknowledged at the moment.
“Love is not jealous.” It is not suspicious, overpossessive, or afraid that another person may step on its rights. It “does not behave indecently.” It is not ill-mannered, rude, vulgar, discourteous, insolent, coarse or disrespectful. How often these bad things bring about gradual alienation of married couples!
Love “does not look for its own interests.” The one showing love will think first of the feelings of the other person, considering the circumstances and doing what is most advantageous to the other’s welfare and happiness, even though some sacrifices have to be made. The loving marriage mate will not demand that everything be done his or her way. Neither will love demand its “rights.”
Love “does not keep account of the injury.” If you exercise love toward your mate, you will not harbor in your heart a vengeful spirit, waiting for the time when the ‘books of account’ will be balanced, in the meantime damaging your relations as a married couple by an angry or unfriendly attitude.
Love “bears all things,” or ‘covers all things.’ If you are loving you will not attribute bad motives to your marriage partner, or be “reading between the lines” in what the mate says or does, ready to jump to angry conclusions. You will express confidence and back up your mate, unless real wrongdoing is proved.
WITH LOVE WE CAN CONFIDENTLY EXPECT IMPROVEMENT
Love “hopes all things, endures all things.” Since marriage is an institution of God, a person should not lose hope in the marriage. He or she should not consider it a “lost cause” or impossible to make successful and even happy. The Bible’s words are the words of God, who made man and woman and who arranged marriage, and God knows what can make marriage a success. It is failure to follow these principles of love that has caused failure in marriage. If you love your partner and God you will hope the very best, you will apply God’s counsel and wait for his response in blessing you. It takes some endurance, but brings rich rewards.
“Love never fails.” Love will sustain you, and will usually have a strong appeal to your mate. Progress may seem slow. However, the knowledge that you are taking the right, positive course, and the healing power that your practice of love has on your own heart, will keep you encouraged and will give you contentment. And, regardless of the other person’s response, love will not fail to bring you much greater happiness.
Strength of heart is required to keep on practicing love. The only way that you can acquire the necessary strength is by a study of the Bible. It outlines not only love, but also the various other qualities related to love and gives guidance as to how to develop and apply them for your own happiness. A weekly study of the Bible with the aid of Bible study helps or of others who understand it will provide you with a knowledge of Jehovah, “the only true God.” Without such knowledge, as the Bible explains, true love is impossible, because “God is love.”—John 17:3; 1 John 4:8.