Excerpt from An online Course: Where God puts two hearts in a home.
I have no love left to give you. Kip‘s words sounded leaden as she offered them to Luke apologetically. I really wanted to make our marriage work, but I know now it is hopeless. There is nothing left anymore. Perhaps some of you have either heard or said something like this and this brings us to a question… Is there something we can do when love is gone, other than bury it and eulogize it? Many people believe that the only recourse is to search for a new love. But research shows that most often, if one has not found lasting love with one partner, one will not find it with the next one either.
So, the only solution to falling out of love is not to find a new mate, but to start learning how to love the one to whom you are married. But how? It may not be possible to activate any of the more natural loves, if your spouse is truly unlovable. If your spouse does not respect you, phileo will not grow. If your spouse finds you unattractive, or if you find your spouse unattractive, you will find it difficult to develop eros. If your spouse is perpetually angry and says cruel and hurtfulthings, you will not be able to feel storge.
So, what do we do when we no longer see any love in our own hearts? Unlike the other types of love, agape is not something that you cultivate in your relationship, but rather something you cultivate in your own heart. In fact, biblically, it is the chief characteristic of a Christian heart. How do we cultivate it?
Patient : The first attitude of agape love is patience. This word does not only mean that it will wait on a street corner for you. Instead, it is the patience that waits years, if necessary, for the fulfillment of desires. It is used in Hebrews 6:15 to describe Abraham‘s patience in waiting for God‘s promise to be fulfilled. It is also used to describe God‘s patience in putting up with generations of evil in order for the elect to come to salvation (2 Pet 3:9). Agape has staying power. Agape is optimistic. 1 Corinthians. 13:4
In marriage, life may not always be pleasant. Your spouse may be unable or unwilling to meet your needs. The agape lover patiently waits for the fulfillment of his desires. He sets aside his needs until the needs of the beloved are met.
Kind: Love is kind. Notice it does not merely do kind things from time to time. Anyone can do that. Instead, love is intrinsically motivated by kindness. In Luke 6:35, Jesus instructs us to love our enemies and lend to anyone who asks, but not to worry if the thing lent is not returned, because God is kind to people who are ungrateful and evil. Therefore, the kindness involved does not expect to be appreciated, noticed, or paid back with a reciprocal good deed. It even disregards the fact that its kind deed may be paid back with an evil one. The word kind is used again in Ephesians 4:32 and instructs us to be kind and forgive each other because God has forgiven us. 1 Corinthians. 13:4
Not Rude: Love is not rude. In marriage, do we stop to look at the impact our actions will have on our spouses before we act or react? Will our actions cause embarrassment, sadness, or worry? Agape always considers the result and adjusts its actions so that they are never rude or
inappropriate. Agape perceives what the appropriate and loving action would be in every situation and proceeds accordingly. 1 Corinthians. 13:5
Not Self-Serving: Love is not self-serving. This trait gets to the root of what is usually the most wrong with us. We are in the center of our own universe, and we see our spouse, our children, our ministry, our job, and even our God as existing mainly to serve us. For example:-
- We pray so that we can convince God to give us what we want.
- We discipline our children so that they will not annoy or embarrass us.
- We minister in the church for the security and good reputation it brings.
- We humor our spouses to make our interchanges more pleasant.
If our good actions are merely self-serving, we have made ourselves into false gods (Isa 14:13-14; Jer 2:13). One needs to deal with the pivotal question…What God (or gods) do I serve? The agape lover seeks to serve with open, giving hands, not to manipulate the beloved into serving. Jesus exemplified this by giving up His life on the cross. 1 Corinthians. 13:5
Not Easily Angered: Because agape relinquishes its self-centeredness, it is not easily angered (v 4). If I live only for myself, when I receive an insult or my inadequacies are pointed out, I flare up with anger so that my spouse knows it is not safe to do that again. But agape accepts reproof, and even insult, with calculated equanimity, just like Jesus did (1 Pet 2:23). 1 Corinthians. 13:4
Does Not Brag, Not Puffed Up: When self is on the throne, a spouse’s attention is to have the self-idol impressive and also get the spouse to serve one too! But agape is not trying to impress and call attention to self; thus it does not brag (v 4). The pleasure of doing good for the beloved is enough for agape. 1 Corinthians. 13:4
Not Resentful: If a spouse gets credit for something done or fails to appreciate a spouse’s role in his/her success, one does not become resentful. As one grows in love they cease to see everyone else as competition for the respect and adoration they so desire for themselves. 1 Corinthians. 13:4
Not Glad About Injustice, but Rejoices in the Truth: Instead of bragging about my good deeds, resenting my spouse‘s good deeds, and getting angry when I miss getting the credit, I always try to make my spouse look good if I am walking in agape love. Agape grieves when a spouse fails to behave righteously or justly, and it is happiest when the truth prevails, no matter who gets the credit. Truth, not self, is its organizing principle. 1 Corinthians. 13:6
Bears All Things, Believes All Things, Hopes All Things, Endures All Things:In maintaining its work of love, agape continues to bear up through whatever obstacles and attacks are thrown at it and keeps believing, hoping, and enduring (v 7). Even in the marriage mentioned earlier in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 in which the spouse leaves and the marriage ends in divorce, agape does not stop praying for and desiring the best good of the beloved, even if that best good includes hard things, such as rejection on the part of false lovers (Hos 2:6-7) and an exposure of sin and lies (Eph 5:11). 1 Corinthians. 13:7
..Through the Holy Spirit, Agape is always available to you and as one shows agape towards a spouse …it gets to clear the way for the other loves to begin growing again. In fact, you can start to agape your partner right now, no matter the current state of your relationship or even your emotions. God commands us to agape (Jn 15:12), so it is always His will for us to do, especially in marriage.