Many of us remember the hit song that began, “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?”  But have you ever thought about the meaning of the words?  In particular, what kind of “love” does the singer have for the one he beholds?  Given the fact that he does not even know her name, and given the rest of the lyrics, it becomes very clear that his “love” is little more than a feeling based upon physical attraction and nothing else.

Naturally, it is easy to recognize that this type of “love” is very shallow.  In fact, we probably can’t even really call it love.  But it does lead us to an important question: what do we mean when we use the word “love”?  When you tell your spouse, ‘I love you,’ what is it that you truly mean?  Often we are referring to a feeling that we have for our spouse.  Naturally, there is nothing wrong with this!  But something is very wrong if we think of love only as a feeling.  God’s understanding of love is very different.

God’s Definition of Love

God provides us with a definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  As you read through these verses, note that godly love is not just a warm feeling for someone.

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

This puts a whole new perspective on the meaning of the words, “I love you”!!  Consider for a moment what this type of love looks like.  “Honey, I love you.  What I mean is I am patient and kind with you.  I do not envy you, I do not boast in front of you, I am not proud before you.  I am not rude to you, I seek your good and not my own, I am not easily angered by you, and I keep no record of your wrongs.”  Wow!  If only we could love like this all the time!

The Challenge of Godly Love

If we are honest, however, most of us will admit that this type of love is not always easy.  Part of the reason for this is that we find it easier to be selfish than to be selfless.  It is far easier for us to think about ourselves and our needs rather than the needs of those around us.  When we live life in this way, however, those around us do not feel as though we truly love them.  This is especially true when it comes to our spouses.

One of the primary characteristics of godly love, however, is that it is focused more upon others than upon ourselves.  Did you notice verse 5 above?  It says that love “is not self-seeking.”  Indeed, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  Of course, this is exactly the type of love that Jesus showed for us!  And this is the type of love that we need to show to our spouses as well.  How do we learn to love like this in our marriage?

Learning to Grow in Godly Love

There are no quick fixes to growing in godly love.  Spiritual growth is much like physical growth: it’s a process that takes time.  But just as physical growth is helped by solid nourishment, so too is spiritual growth.  Here are two avenues that will provide some solid nourishment for our spiritual growth in love in marriage.

  1. Getting to know Jesus – Jesus is the perfect model of selfless love.  In Ephesians 5:25, husbands in particular are commanded to follow Jesus’ example as they seek to love their wives.  If we would seek to love like Jesus, we need to be serious about getting to know Jesus more intimately.  This happens through good fellowship with other Christians, reading God’s Word, and prayer.  Again, this is not a “quick fix”.  It is a process that takes time.  But it will aid us greatly in learning to love with a godly love.