going to speak about learning to love. What I have to say may pertain to many
of you who are married, but if you're not married, hang in there, because the
principles we're talking about apply not only to marriage but all
People experience misery in
marriage for 4 reasons.
me begin by asking this question. Why do marriages begin so well and often end
so badly? I've been a pastor for a number of years, and no one has yet come to
me to say, "Pastor, our great desire in life is to have a miserable marriage.
Would you please tell us how we can live in real misery?" No one has ever said
that. Amazingly there are some couples whom I have married who are living today
in a good deal of misery. Why? Let me give you a few reasons.
they are miserable because of unrealistic expectations. Some people actually
think marriage is going to make them happy. Here's a young woman who says to
herself, "I am going to marry a man whose responsibility is to make
me happy." She marries him, and he has responsibilities other than that
responsibility. She begins to chip away at him to make him into the
kind of man who will make her happy.
been said that a bride thinks of three things on her wedding day: the aisle,
the altar, and him. Actually it's this: "I'll alter him. I'll make him into the
kind of man who can make me happy." I just want to say this: if you are
miserable as a single person, it's entirely possible you're going to be
miserable married. Marriage does not automatically produce happiness. Some
young women don't marry a man; they marry a dream. When the dream shatters,
they're shattered, too.
a second reason, and that is the myth of the greener grass. J. Allan Petersen
has a good book by that name. Some people always live on the slope of a
question mark: "If only." A woman thinks to herself, If only I had married
another man. If only we had more money. If only we had not had five children in
four years. Surely things would be better if . . .
going to tell you very plainly: No marriage is ever happy, no marriage is ever
fulfilled for those with "if only" in the back of their minds. If you're
married, you're married to that person, and there is no use trying to think of
what might have been. No marriage is happy with the myth of the greener grass.
man walked into a mental institution one day and was taken on a tour. The tour
saw one cell where the man was beating his head against the padded walls. He
kept saying, "Linda, how could you do it? Linda, how could you do it?" The
guide explained that the man was in love with Linda, and when Linda jilted him,
he drifted off into the ozone. He couldn't handle it.
went to the next cell, and there was a man saying, "Linda, Linda, how could
this happen? Linda, Linda."
visitor said, "Who's he?"
guide said, "He's the man who married Linda." That's the myth of the greener
three: Many marriages fail because they misunderstand the role of conflict.
Couples get into their first argument, and they think they must have married
the wrong person. They thought their marriage was going to be all sweetness and
once met a man who said, "In the forty years we've been married, my wife and I
haven't had an argument."
said to him, "Well, my marriage has not been quite that boring, personally."
kind of like what that Britisher said when he heard that in the United States
there are many divorces because of incompatibility. He made an amazing
statement. He said, "I thought incompatibility was one of the purposes of
may be true. What if you take two people and bring them together?
What else can you expect except incompatibility? God wants us to grow through
a fourth reason why some people live in misery. their failure to distinguish
divine and human love. For this I ask you to turn now to Luke, chapter 6. Jesus
is speaking in the Sermon on the Mount.
I'd like to do is to give you three statements regarding love.
Statement one: If you love those who love you, what credit
is that to you? (Luke 6:32)
you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love
those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what
credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from
whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to
'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full."
love depends on the person who is loved. You do good to those who do good to
you. You do a favor for someone who has done a favor for you. As long as he is
nice to you, you're nice to him. That's human love. Human love is therefore an
attitude or a disposition. It is often laden with heavy feelings because you
can't help but liking some people for what they do for you.
are two ways to be impressed by people. First is their personality. There are
some people who just exude love and openness. We've all met people like that.
Someone will say, "Oh, you'll just love John, because he's just such a
wonderful fellow." A person who has that kind of openness may have other
weaknesses, but it's true that everybody loves John. We've all met people to
whom we are instantly attracted because of their personality.
other thing that impresses us about people is appearance. Some people are
strikingly beautiful. The minute they walk into the room, every eye is on them
because of the magnetism of their looks. Put beauty and magnetism together and
you have a tremendously powerful package. Look at people like that, and they
make you feel good. They may stimulate you sexually. You're attracted to them.
That's human love.
ask, "Is there anything wrong with human love?" No. It makes the world go
round. Some of you should think back to the days when you understood human love
a little better. There's only one problem with it. Even though Jesus calls it
love, he says sinners love those who love them.
once challenged me, "You should not talk about human love as being love." Jesus
does. He says sinners love those who love them. It's human love. The problem is
that human love is not strong enough to weather the storms of many marriages.
That person no longer may do something for you. Perhaps he's changed and not
the person you married.
was preaching in the Midwest one day, when a woman came to me with a little
girl at her side. This woman showed by the cast on her arm and some scars on
the side of her face that she had been in the hospital. She said, "I was in the
hospital because of a very serious fire. There were burns over of my
body. My husband walked into the hospital room, took one look at me, and said,
'You're not the woman I married.' " He left her to marry someone younger and
love says, "As long as you stimulate me, as long as I can be proud of you, as
long as you're beautiful, I can love you. If you change, my love for you
heard a song on the radio not too long ago. Here are the words:
I don't love you anymore.
To waste our lives would be a sin.
Please release me, let me go.
Release me and let me love again.
could say that again and again and again, trying to find somebody who makes us
happy. That's human love.
it is important to marry the right person, but the Bible doesn't say much about
that. It stresses being the right person. I know we must seek God's will
regarding a mate, but being the right person is where it's at.
Statement two: Love your
enemies (Luke 6:27).
a second statement. I told you that human love depends on the one who is loved.
Divine love is based on the lover. Look at what Jesus said in verse 27: "But I
tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless
those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
is talking about the kind of love that loves enemies. It's not a feeling or a
disposition. You can't make yourself feel happy and excited about an enemy. You
can't turn feelings off and on like a faucet. Jesus' love is strong enough that
you may even love your enemy. Jesus said it involves sacrificial action.
what Jesus said you should do for such a person. It is a kind of love that is
divine. "Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us long
before we loved him." That's divine love. It is based on the lover. Notice what
the text says divine love does for those who are your enemies.
you read the story about a woman and her husband who came to a pastor and said,
"We're going to get a divorce, but we want to come to make sure that you
approve of it." There are people who come to the pastor hoping that when they
say there is no feeling left in their marriage, the pastor will say, "Well, if
there's no feeling left. then, the only thing you can do is split."
the pastor says to the husband, "The Bible says you're to love your wife as
Jesus Christ loved the church."
says, "Oh, I can't do that."
pastor says, "If you can't begin at that level, then begin on a lower level.
You're supposed to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Can you at least
love her as you would love a neighbor?"
husband says, "No. That's still too high a level."
pastor says, "The Bible says, Love your enemies. Begin there."
what Jesus said we should do for our enemies. This is divine love. In verse 27
he says, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who
hate you. Give yourself to their legitimate needs. If your enemy thirsts, give
him to drink. If he hungers, feed him. You do good to him."
important in all relationships and certainly with those who are difficult to
love. You should do good to them. It says, "Bless them who curse you." That
means you say good things about them rather than bad.
been a pastor for a number of years, and I know women often live with men who
are really hard to get along with. There's no question about that. Some men are
just egocentric and insensitive. They are and difficult. But
the temptation is for the woman to tell other people how awful her husband is.
I think there is a legitimate place to discuss that with a pastor or a
counselor. Often though, she is not blessing her husband. She is speaking ill
of him in certain contexts to people who are neither a part of the problem nor
a part of the solution. Therefore, she may be undermining something that God
wants to do, because the Bible says what you should do is bless him.
woman came to a lawyer and said, "I want to get a divorce. I really hate my
husband, and I want to hurt him. Give me some advice." In addition to wanting
to get the gold and give him the shaft, she was wondering about some other way
that she might do him in.
attorney said, "Look, you're going to divorce the guy anyway, so for three
months don't criticize him. Speak only well of him. Build him up. Every time he
does something nice, commend him for it. Tell him what a great guy he is, and
do that for three months. After he thinks that he has your confidence and love,
hit him with the news and it will hurt more."
woman thought, "I can't go wrong on this. I'm divorcing the guy anyway. Why
should I speak badly about him anymore? I'm going to speak only well of him."
she complimented her husband for everything he did. For three months she told
him what a great man he was. You know what happened to that relationship? After
three months, they forgot about the divorce and went on a second honeymoon.
says, "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you." Do good to
them. Bless them.
should we pray for our enemies? Should we pray that God will bring them into
judgment? I don't think that that's the kind of praying Jesus wants us to do in
relationship to our enemies. What Jesus wants us to do is to be able to say in
prayer to him, "O God, I pray that you might mightily bless this person. I pray
that he might be led to worship you. I pray for his spiritual growth." Uphold
them positively in prayer, because God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger,
and plenteous in mercy. That's what the text says we should do to our enemies.
We should do them well.
me say to those husbands who are listening. I talked about divine love
involving sacrificial action, doing good, blessing, praying. Do you know what
else it may mean in relationship to your wife? It may mean giving that
sacrificial action, answering her need for communication. You know that women
are made by God to desire a man who communicates with them. They need time,
love, and appreciation. They need to feel wanted.
remember counseling a young woman involved in an immoral, sexual relationship.
She said, "It wasn't because I enjoyed that relationship so much. I just wanted
to mean something to somebody." That's the cry of many marriage partners today,
of both men and women. They want to mean something to somebody. Wives desire to
mean something to their husbands. The question for those of us who are married
is whether we are willing to give the time, the love, and the sacrificial
action to recognize that our first responsibility is to our spouse, in
maintaining that love relationship. That is divine love.
love says, "I may not need this, but you need it, and I put your needs and your
desires above my own." That's very difficult to do, but that's what God expects
us to do for one another: sacrificial action. That's divine love.
love is based on the one who is loved. I can love you because of what you do
for me, but divine love is based on the lover. Divine love says, "I can be
sacrificially involved in your life even at high cost, and even if I don't get
anything in return."
the Mafia have a code of ethics that says if you do something for me, I'll do
something for you. That's human love. Divine love says, "I can go on loving
even if you don t reciprocate."
Statement three: Love your enemies you will be sons of
the Most High (Luke 6:35).
a third statement: Divine love is based on the nature of God. Look at what it
says in verse 35: "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them
without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you
will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and
all pray, "O God, make me ." When people come into our lives who are
difficult to love, we don't see it as an opportunity to grow in .
We want to get rid of them. I hope that's not true in your marriage or in your
work relationships where there are people who are hard to love. What you should
say is, "Oh God, thank you for this opportunity for spiritual growth."
let's bring this down to concrete terms. There are a lot of things when we talk
about divine and human love that impinge upon reality. Forgiveness, for
example, though not stated explicitly in this text, is certainly implied.
know a young woman who got married but found she could not relate to her
husband. As a child, her stepfather sexually molested her for a number of
years. That experience had made it difficult to have any kind of physical love.
A molested child may not like to be touched, even though the thing that they
need the most is to be touched and to be hugged.
this young woman was transferring all of the revulsion and the hatred for her
stepfather toward her husband because of the depths of her shame and
came to a pastor, and he pointed her to Luke 6. He said, "What does the Bible
say that you should do to your enemies?"
looked at verse 27 and said, "Love them, do good, bless them, and pray for
pastor said, "That's what you have to do about your stepfather. Until you
release all of the feelings of bitterness and you are free in your relationship
with him, you will never be free to love your husband."
fiber of her being revolted against such advice. She thought to herself, Why
should I forgive him? Why should I love him when all of those awful things were
done to me?
this young woman decided to apply this text of Scripture. She decided to bake
her stepfather a birthday cake. Rather than speaking evil of him, she decided
to speak well of him. Upon further reflection, she realized that there were
many good things she could say about him. In spite of this horrible sin against
her, the fact was that in many other ways he was a good father. She began to
think about those ways and speak well of him rather than evil. She decided that
she would pray for him three times a day, that God would bless him, and that's
what she did.
weeks went by as she continued to obey the Scriptures and to forgive the man
who had so severely wronged her. She told the pastor later that she saw her
stepfather leave a supermarket and walk across the parking lot with a bag of groceries
in his arms. For the first time in all those years, there were actually
feelings of love toward him rather than revulsion. She said that except for
their previous relationship, she could have gone and put her arms around him.
she made the crucial statement that was very important to the survival of her
marriage: "Now I'm free to love my husband."
Bible says that the fruit of the Spirit is predominantly love. You may find
that you are absolutely unable to love. That is not too serious if you see the
love of God as being shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost. You can tap
supernatural resources to enable you to love the unlovable and the unlikable.
said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one
another." We do not have it naturally, but supernaturally God gives us the
ability to love with divine loveto love as God loves.
sure there are hurting couples with torn relationships and emotions in a state
of convulsion. I urge you in the name of Jesus to confess and forsake hatred;
by God's grace and strength learn to love.
Erwin Lutzer is senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. He is also the
featured speaker on "The Moody Church Hour" and on the popular evening program
"Songs in the Night."