What does commitment mean in marriage, and why is it important to understand? In this post, I hope to give the biblical reasons showing commitment’s importance and that it is possible to achieve if we see things through God’s perspective.
What We Give As Our Reason For Loving Might Not Be Good Enough
Many married couples would usually answer the question ‘Why do you love your spouse?’ with answers such as ‘She is so loving’ ‘He is devoted to God and the family’ ‘He is so spiritual’ etc.
All these answers are excellent as we need to make wise choices more on the character of the person you are choosing to marry. This might give singles a good idea on what to focus on during the dating stage to know who to either ask to be your future wife and who to say yes to.
We Realise Our Spouse Is Not Perfect After All
Once we step into the agreement of Marriage, we find based on that decision and how God himself has designed marriage – which is a lifetime commitment. That our reason about your spouse being this or that as the reason why we love them can no longer hold. This is simply because placing any condition makes our reason for loving our spouse conditional hence we now have a conditional marriage.
To put it more directly, what if your spouse decides to no longer be ‘so loving’ or ‘devoted to God and family’ etc. Does God teach us to withdraw our love? No! This has led me to understand that the love required ‘in’ a Marriage is a Christlike loving commitment.
The Different Types of ‘Love’
I have mentioned before that unfortunately because of the slight hindrance that the English language has with regards to the different meanings of the word love, it has heavily influenced our understanding of this word. Most scholars agree on at least three different definitions that the Greek language provides on its definition of love: ‘phileo’ – friendship, ‘eros’ – sexual love, and ‘agape’ ‘doing what is best for the other’.
While the first two are mainly conditional, the Agape is selfless and unconditional. This helps us to see the connection between Marriage and how it reveals a lot about our relationship with God.
In Eph 5:22-32, Paul expounds on the idea about the relationship between a man and his wife is very similar to Christ’s relationship to the Church. Rom 5:8 ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ – This shows the unconditional nature that God shows toward us, so as we submit to each other out of reverence for Christ Eph 5:21, the expectation is to love unconditionally towards each other. You can really only do this when you have first received God’s unconditional love, then you can freely give God’s unconditional love.
If this is an area you are finding difficult in your marriage i.e. to give your spouse unconditional love, don’t be surprised, (as I write this, I too am convicted) this is not something you can do in your own strength – it can only be done (for Christians) when you focus on Jesus and not on yourself.
Below are four essential perspectives that we must have to carry this out:
1. You Must See That God Loved You First. 1 Jn 4:19
Unconditional love makes little sense until you have experienced it yourself. The nature of our relationship with God starts off with God, lavishing his love on us (Eph 1:8). This is not something that is understood academically but is believed. It is only by faith that we can gain insight to this, and praying that God opens the eyes of our heart to see this is the key as it is the work of God’s Holy Spirit that can enable us to experience this love.
If we have not yet put on Christ, then our response is to repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of our sins and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Trying to offer unconditional love without God’s Holy Spirit is hard work, with God’s spirit, it is an expression of Grace.
2. You Must Follow God’s Example. Eph 5:1
As disciples we are called to imitate God, hence if God showed us unconditional love then we should think about how to show that to others. Marriage is the one sure place that the ‘one another’ scriptures can be applied, and since we know that you most likely have already professed love for each other, being in Christ should mean that it should start with the Agape love that God himself showed to you.
3. You Must Honour Your Commitment Despite Your Feelings. 1 Pet 2:21-23
We know that in Marriage, sometimes it is the person who is closest to you and knows your strengths and weaknesses that can hurt you the most. Since we cannot control other people especially our spouses, then the only thing we are in control of is ourselves and therefore following through on our commitment to love our spouse in sickness and in health, for better for worse is the mindset not on how I feel today or, did this person do this or that?
In today’s world were feelings seems to be taken more seriously than commitment, specific encouragement needs to be sort from the right type of counsel that would remind you that it is your commitment that will show how much you are willing to obey the Lord despite how you feel about demonstrating love unconditionally to your spouse. By the way, just to mention that sometimes the loving thing to do is to speak to someone else if the behaviour of your spouse if totally ungodly – This still requires denying your feelings and obeying God command to love what another – ‘doing what is best for the other’
4. You Must See Your Reward For Living This Way. Col 3:1-4
The main reason that makes sense for doing the unconditional loving to your spouse irrespective of whether they respond is because, you will be rewarded for it, it might not be in this life, but God surely sees your good deeds and will reward you for loving another human creation of his that was made in his image. Our assurance of that should be the reason why we are loving to our spouse.
So when next we are asked, ‘Why do you love your spouse?’ is your answer going to be conditional? Or is your answer going to be that God has lavished his love on me and I am so blessed to express that same love to the best of my ability on to my spouse?
The Choice to Be Unconditional
To conclude, and again, I stress that this might not be easy; the commitment has to come as we look to how God is committed to us, this is how we can practise unconditional love to our spouse. Marriage is a profound mystery (Eph 5:32) that should remind us that Christ is unconditionally committed to loving us.
Knowing this academically is not enough, we now need to get really practical. What can we do?
As a starting point: Find out what your spouse likes and do them randomly without them asking, it’s a commitment. I am sure my wife will hold me accountable to this. 🙂
What are your thoughts?
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