Perhaps you’ve heard someone in a failed relationship say, “We always loved each other, but we just couldn’t get along.” They may have loved much, but they didn’t know how to love well.
First Corinthians 13 is great counsel on how to love well in marriage. Loving well is the most essential ingredient for even the most spiritual people. For one thing, loving well brings music to our words (see verse 1). In times of trouble, we can be suspicious of the things our wife says to us. If our actions don’t show love, words of love will only clang in our hearts. But loving behavior makes even our most mundane conversations melodic.
Similarly, loving well adds muscle to our faith (see verse 2). It doesn’t matter what kinds of obstacles we overcome or what kinds of insights we have; without acting in love toward those closest to us, even the greatest spiritual accomplishments turn to dust.
Finally, loving well brings value to our sacrifices (see verse 3). In marriage, we often sacrifice for our wives, but there can be a point at which we start keeping track of what those efforts cost us. When we love well, even the smallest sacrifices become treasures rather than points scored.
Verses 4–7 are practical reminders for marriage.
Verse 4: When he is thoughtless and inconsistent, “love is patient.” When she hurts you, “love is kind.” When other couples have what you want, love “does not envy.” When you were right and he was wrong, love “does not boast.” When you did a better job than she did, love “is not proud.”
Verse 5: When you know your wife hates it when you are habitually late, love “does not dishonor others.” When no one thinks of you—your needs, your feelings, your desires or your rights—love “is not self-seeking.” When you’ve had a long day and you’re tired, or when she seems to be taking potshots at you, love “is not easily angered.” When your wife doesn’t say “I’m sorry” for some offense, love “keeps no record of wrongs.”
Verse 7: When she is taking a pounding from the world, your love, like a roof overhead, “protects.” When you’ve been hurt or disappointed or betrayed, love “trusts.” When no one notices how much you care or how often you cry, love “hopes.” And when your love has been abused and questioned, when the door has been slammed in your face, when you’ve been completely ignored, love “perseveres.”
Of course, if we’re honest with one another, we have to admit that none of us measures up to the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. No matter how much we love our spouse, loving well is too hard for us. That is why our relationship with Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit are so crucial. The Lord expects us to do our best—to throw our hearts and wills into all aspects of loving well. But when we’ve reached the limit of our ability, stunted by our sinfulness and weakness, we can pray for grace to do better. God can dial down our selfishness, release us from our insecurities and scorekeeping, and refresh our delight in our partner, so that we can begin to know the blessing of loving well.