Marriage is a funny thing. Out of all the relationships we have on earth, the marital relationship is the one that tests our patience and the extent of our love (the next most difficult relationship is the one we have with our children).
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus tells us the two most important commandments– (1) “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (“This is the first and greatest commandment”), and (2) “Love your neighbor as yourself” (this is “equally important”).
I think it’s easy to love our neighbor– the people next door we hardly ever see or the one who bags our grocery, but it can be hard to love the neighbor we live with– someone we see all the time. There is more opportunity to have disagreements with the person we see 24/7– this is the true test of love.
In 1 John 4:7-8 it says that “love comes from God” and that “God is love.” So we can’t truly love someone unless we have placed our trust in God– “Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God” (1 Jn 4:7, NLT). So in order for us to “love our neighbor”– our spouse, our children, our family members, etc., we must love God. If we are having a hard time loving our spouse or our children, then we must see if we truly love God.
There was a time when I could go from loving my husband to hating my husband on a daily basis. When all was well, I loved him, but when we had a bad disagreement then I hated him. We used to have terrible arguments during the first ten or 15 years of our marriage– my husband would punch walls and I would throw dishes– both of us screaming at each other.
I can look back and see that I did not love God as much as I love Him now, and that lack of love for God was reflected in the lack of love I had for my husband. As I started to grow in my relationship with God, my love for Him grew and my love for my husband grew as well.
We still have disagreements and even arguments sometimes, but they are not as volatile as they once were. We still maintain that love for one another even though we are upset. The patience and love I have for my husband is only made possible because of God.
How about you– do you love your neighbor?