The Method of Love
About the Guest
What does a Christian marriage look like? To know that, you must start with God's definition of love. Kevin DeYoung talks about the "Three M's of Love" according to the Bible.
Kevin DeYoungA native of Jenison, Michigan, Kevin graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, with a B.A. in Religion. He earned his Master of Divinity degree at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He is now a Ph.D. candidate in Early Modern History at the University of Leicester in the UK. Before accepting the call to lead Christ Covenant Kevin served as pastor of ...more
What does a Christian marriage look like? To know that, you must start with God’s definition of love. Kevin DeYoung talks about the “Three M’s of Love” according to the Bible.
The Method of Love
Bob: One of the biggest days in any married person’s life is the day he became a husband, or she became a wife. The day we were married is a huge landmark day in our lives. Pastor and Author Kevin DeYoung reminds us that on that day, we took a very important vow.
Kevin: You made promises before God and these witnesses, and you said, “Forsaking all others,” and you said, “Until death parts us.” You said these things. You promised these things. You called upon God Himself to witness these vows, and we treat them so lightly!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 26th.
Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The vow we made was a vow to love and honor and cherish one another, but do we know what love really looks like? Pastor Kevin DeYoung has an answer to that question for us today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We were talking not long ago with a friend about the state of marriage, and one of the observations he made is that, if we’re going to get marriage right, we’ve got to get love right. That’s a good observation.
Part of the reason we’ve got marriage problems in our world is because people don’t understand how the Bible defines love.
Dennis: I don’t think most of us realize, when we sign up for marriage, that we’re really enrolling in a divine school of learning how to love.
First John, Chapter 4 says, “There’s no fear in love, because perfect love casts out all fear.” First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”
Bob: And it’s interesting that you picked out those two verses. One of them was the verse that was engraved . . . .
Bob: . . . on both of your wedding rings?
Dennis: No; Barbara’s ring.
Bob: And the other one is what we had on our wedding invitations when we got married: 1 John 4:19.
Dennis: And if you think about it, Bob, we start out marriage with puppy love.
Dennis: Lots of emotion; lots of passion; and very little experience in knowing how two imperfect people are going to learn how to love one another over a lifetime.
But it just dawned on me--and I don’t remember when, but it’s been in the past five years—that really, what our marriage has been, is a school for me, as a very clumsy, selfish husband, to go to school on God and say, “You need to teach me how to truly love my wife! You’ve commanded me to do this.”
“Therefore, You should help me here!”
Dennis: And he has. I’m not done learning, but I’ve got to say that I don’t know how I would have learned how to love as I have had it not been for the privilege of taking Barbara as my wife. I’m not speaking negatively of single people. There are some singles whom God calls to be single their entire lives. They have relationships where they learn how to love imperfect people as well. I just think there’s something that is incredibly powerful learned with your spouse and--listen to me; listen to me—this is a lesson you must pass on to your kids, so that they not only observe how you love each other, but you explain how you love each other. Then, you equip them to know how to love another imperfect person when they say, “I do.”
Bob: Yes. We’re going to get some love coaching today from our friend, Kevin DeYoung.
Kevin is the Pastor at Christ Covenant Church in the Charlotte, NC area, and he spoke at an event we hosted recently, where he talked about the need for us to get a better understanding of what biblical love looks like if we’re going to have marriages that honor Christ. Here’s Kevin DeYoung:
Kevin: I want to give you, hopefully, what are biblical foundations for biblical marriage, because we’re interested not just in having some good relational techniques and some good communication pointers, but we want to know, “What does the Bible have to say about marriage?”
The Bible actually only says a little bit about marriage. It says a lot about God, and a lot about what it means to be saved, and to serve God. What is it that the Bible tells us that makes Christian marriage actually Christian? What is it in Christian marriage that shows forth the love that God has for us?
That’s what we want to talk about, and I ask you to turn in your Bibles (or if you’re really cool, you can swipe them on), and we will be looking at 1 John, Chapter 4; 1 John, Chapter 4, verses 10-12.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
It will come as no surprise that I want to talk to you about love. What is it, though? What does love actually look like? Because it’s so easy to imbibe our culture’s understanding of love.
There are many people who think of love as a feeling that comes over you. “Love is just. . . ! I’m skipping! There are clouds under my feet! I just see stars and the moon coming out all for us!” Do you remember when you felt like that -- for a week?
That was a really good week! You got engaged that week, and then some older couple came along and said, “Enjoy it while it lasts!”
Sometimes we think of marriage that way. It’s just some bubbly feeling that comes over us, and it’s wonderful when you have it, but then what happens when it’s gone?
Some people in our culture think love is unconditional acceptance. “If you love me, you will embrace whatever I am, whoever I am, whatever my self-identity claims to be. And if you tell me that there is some other, higher authority—“
--“or some other moral plane that is above my own autonomy, then you don’t really love me.” This is our culture’s understanding of love: affirmation. So, “if you tell me that what I’m doing is something other than what I want to do, you don’t really love me.” Now, anyone here who’s a parent understands: that’s not love! You would not be loving to your children if you just said, “You know what? This year, you call the shots.”
It might be easier for a time. They’d be out playing in the middle of the street; they’d be taking baths with toasters; they’d be doing all sorts of dumb stuff! I mean, you don’t say that to your kids!
But, somehow, we have this idea that if you really love—and then you get into a marriage—“Well, if he really loved me, then he would just let me do whatever I want to do.” Or, “If you love me, why can’t I go hunting for 15 weeks out of the year (or go fishing)? Why don’t you love me? It’s who I am! It’s how God made me!”
Then you’ve got people who just think love is just some magic pill. You know, just “love solves everything!” Listen, if you think your marriage problems are going to be solved by a bumper sticker, then you’re not in touch with what the real issues are in your marriage. People get these sort of Hallmark moments, yes. “Just love!” But what is it that sounds good for a moment in some after-school special, and then what does it do for you?
We need the Bible to tell us. Each of these cultural definitions have an element of truth, but they’re far from the whole truth, and when you get a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth, it usually ends up being a lie. So, what does the Bible say? I have three points, and because I’ve been to seminary, they all start with the letter, “M.”
The Method; the Motivation; and the Manifestation of love.
Because, if God is love—and everyone likes that idea; even non-Christians. Oh, yes! “If there is a God, He is, supremely, love!” If God is love, then it stands to reason that He ought to define what love is and what it looks like. And we see here the method, the motivation, and the manifestation. Verse 10 first—the method: “In this is love,” John writes, “not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [we’ll come back to that word in a moment] for our sins.” So do you see the method? God’s love came about from His will. It was His choice in eternity past to set His affections upon us; to choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. It was His decision for His glory to love us!
So, contrary to popular opinion, God does not love us because we were some diamond in the rough, that then the cross shows how special we are. The cross shows how far we were from God in our sin! What does Paul say in Romans? “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God did not look out and say, “There are some special people. I’ve got a lot of potential in that one. Oh, wow! She’s got a lot going for her. I think I’ll send my Son for her, her, her, and him.” It was His choice!
Now, what does this mean for marriage? Now, it’s not identical, because hopefully there are some things that drew you to one another: “He’s so intelligent, and he’s handsome.” “She’s so kind and loving.” You were attracted to one another, and yet, there are many, many times in marriage where to love one another is an act of the will. Love is not what holds the marriage together. It is the commitment of marriage that sustains the love. You made promises before God and these witnesses, and you said, “Forsaking all others,” and you said, “Until death parts us.” You said these things. You promised these things. You called upon God Himself to witness these vows, and we treat them so lightly!
Love is an act of the will. When you get married, you turn off, hopefully, that part of your brain that would walk into a room, when you were single, and sort of think, “Hmmm, maybe!”
“Who are you?” You turn that off! Now, forsaking all others, it is you and her; it is you and him. You make that choice so that, instead of saying, “Today I will float on clouds of limitless passion as I consider the boundless perfections of my spouse—“
You say, “Today I will forgive. Today I will cherish, even as I recognize the imperfections of my spouse.” So there is an act of the will. If you expect that your marriage is going to flourish just by the magnetic attraction of your two personalities, that’s probably come and gone. You’ve got to make some hard decisions now.
You also see, the method here is sacrifice; sacrifice. It says that Jesus’ death was a propitiation. Now what does that word mean? Think of it just the first part of the word: “pro.” When Christ died for our sins, it made God, who had every right to be angry toward us as His sinful creatures; yet God, together with the Son and the Holy Spirit now, through this act of redemption, are propitious toward us. That means God, who was against us, and had every right to be, is now for us (“pro” us). You need good words like that!
Listen, you need theology to have a strong marriage. You need theological ballast in your boat.
Propitiation. So God—God—had every right to condemn us. Now, I don’t know what sort of tradition you come from and what sort of church you’re a part of. In our church, most Sundays at the end, I give the benediction, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you His peace.”
If you’re Baptist, it sounds like, “You’re dismissed,” but if you’re Presbyterian, that’s what we say.
Now, I love this, right from the Bible, from Numbers, Chapter 6—I love--what R.C. Sproul said many years ago. He said, “You want to know what it is to be under the curse of God? Take that blessing and flip it. ‘May the Lord curse you. May the Lord turn His face away from you. May He hide His countenance from you.”
“May He turn His smile away and may you see nothing but His frowning countenance.” God had every right to be angry with us in our sins. And if the gospel has become old, boring news to us, perhaps it’s because we don’t know how much we have been saved from. [Applause]
We’ve forgotten what it is! You will not be gracious within your marriage until you know how gracious God has been to you. Sacrifice—He sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice, that He who had every right to be against us would be, now, “pro” us. When’s the last time you’ve sacrificed something? I remember hearing some wife say, years ago—
“I don’t just want a husband who will die for me. I want a husband who’s going to wake up every morning and try to live for me.” You know, the husband says, you know, “I’ll take the bullet for you!!” “Okay, but would you take the child for me?”
Because that’s the more likely scenario.
Those children can drop bullets, you know what I mean?
But I think of my wife, and I think of all that she has sacrificed for me, just day after day, and how little I have sacrificed. I think my sacrifice is that I’ve watched every Jane Austen movie ever made—ever made.
We have, back in our room, on my iPad, like 60 hours of costume dramas. If they have British accents and gowns, my wife wants to see it. But that’s it! What have you done for your husband; for your wife? Some measure of sacrifice: your time; your energy.
Marriage is hard for one simple reason: we’re selfish people! Some of you are maybe yellers when you get into a fight. My wife and I are silencers. We just get cold and, you know, say, “Hon, is anything wrong?”
If the “no” has a couple syllables, it means, “Yes.”
And then I’ll say, “Are you mad at me?,” which is my way of saying, “I have no idea why you’re mad at me!” And she’ll pause and say, “No,” which means, “Come back later and we’ll get to the bottom of it.” But we have these moments of icy tension, and what I find is, if I’m willing—and, husbands, let’s lead the way in this! If you want to be, as the Bible calls you to be, the leader in your home and the head of your home, then you take the lead in seeking reconciliation in your home.
If you take a little step—and if I’ll just say, “Honey, I know that didn’t come out right.” Now, what I might be thinking in my head is, “Okay, but it’s still 95% your fault.”
But I took a little step, and my wife is so gracious. If I do that, she’ll inevitably say, “You’re right. That was not right, but I didn’t have a very good attitude when you came home.” Just a little bit!
Some of you may experience a great miracle of God’s grace and your marriage is completely changed this weekend, but that’s not usually how God works. He works little-by-little. If you’re here, and your marriage is a frozen block of ice, and you can leave this week with some melting, that’s a good step: just some thawing; some hope. The hope you have is not in any of us, or any of our stories. The hope is in Christ!
That’s when marriages are at their worst. If you give me any couple—any couple, whatever their problem—if they say, “We want to work on this. We have hope.” [Applause] You can do anything! But when you lose hope and say, “There is nothing . . .,” or you’ve “never seen it this bad; this will never get better.” You have to believe that no one loves your marriage and wants to see your marriage flourish more than God does.
[End Audio Recording]
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening today to the first part of a message from Kevin DeYoung. It’s a great point that he’s making there about the need for hope in a marriage relationship. When couples lose hope, they no longer have the motivation or the power to try to fix things in their marriage.
Dennis: If you look at how a marriage starts, it starts with a promise. What does that promise assume?
The hope of a future. And when the hope of a future together becomes vague or is threatened, Bob, we don’t know how to sort through the disagreements; the difficulties we face; the issues that have to be resolved. It’s why marriage is spoken of as a covenant. The covenant produces the hope that this is going to be okay. We’re going to work through this. You know what? We’re not in a good place right now, but we’re moving to a better place.
And stop and think. Couples who’ve attended a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway in the past; those who have left feeling encouraged have left and said, “There’ve been two things we got from this weekend.”
Dennis: Yes, help and hope.
Dennis: And the help, practically speaking, let’s them know how they can get out of the ditch.
Dennis: Or out of trouble.
Bob: “Here’s where we can make the course correction; here are the adjustments we can make in order for our marriage to thrive.”
Dennis: How we can forgive one another; how we can be husbands and wives, and make our merger work together. A lot of marriages fail, Bob, because two broken human beings simply don’t have the hope of a biblical blueprint to build their marriage from together. And that’s what we give them at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
We offer people a money-back guarantee. If it’s not what we say it is, you get your registration fee back.
Bob: Yes, and with no questions asked. I mean, seriously, you come, and, if for any reason, you’re not happy with the weekend, just ask for your money back. We don’t write a whole lot of those checks either, because people who come tell us, “I wish we’d come years before this.” Couples who’ve been married awhile say, “We could have used this early on in our marriage relationship.”
I’m going to be speaking at the Weekend to Remember next weekend in Parsippany, New Jersey. We’ve still got a couple dozen events happening in November and December. If you’d like to sign up for an upcoming Weekend to Remember getaway, you can do that today.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and register online, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to register. If you want to start looking at the schedule for next spring, and figuring out when you’d like to attend a getaway—when one is coming to a city near where you live—go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and click the link for the Weekend to Remember, and all of the information you need is available right there. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
And if, for any reason, you can’t get to a Weekend to Remember®, you can bring the concepts from the Weekend to Remember to your small group or to your home through the Art of Marriage® small group kit. There’s information about the Art of Marriage® available online as well at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, when you stop and think about it, what we’ve been hearing from Kevin DeYoung today is at the heart of what FamilyLife Today is all about. We believe that a marriage that is centered on Christ, and a family that is built on the gospel ought to have a fundamentally different look; a fundamentally different reason for being.
Here at FamilyLife, we exist to provide practical, biblical help and hope for marriages and families. Our goal is to effectively develop godly marriages and families, because we believe godly marriages and families can change the world. And we appreciate those of you who are not just listeners to this ministry, but those of you who have taken the step to say, “Let’s expand the reach of this ministry. Let’s get this message out to more people in the weeks and months to come.”
You do that every time you make a donation to support FamilyLife Today. Your donations go to help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily program. If you are a long-time listener, and you’ve never made a donation, we would love to connect with you today. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call to donate: 1-800-FLTODAY is our number. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Kevin DeYoung about what grace should look like in a marriage relationship—how husbands and wives ought to be dispensing grace to one another. We’ll hear Part Two of his message together. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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