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The Neglected Word: Cherish

The Neglected Word: Cherish

Millions of couples getting married have pledged “to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

Most of us understand and get the love part—commitment, putting the other person first, service—but what does it mean to cherish our spouses? Is that word just an add-on? Why do we say it once at the wedding and then rarely even mention it again?

Exploring and understanding what it means to cherish each other will enrich, deepen, and spiritually strengthen our marriages. Cherish isn’t just a throwaway word, but an idea that helps us better understand what we are called to do and to be in marriage. Learning to truly cherish each other turns marriage from an obligation into a delight. It lifts marriage above a commitment to a precious priority.

Cherish is the melody that makes a marriage sing. Sadly, the word cherish is more popularly used for things and memories than it is for people, but such common uses can help us understand what the word means. To cherish something means we want to protect it (you don’t leave a $100,000 Mercedes out in the street with the door open and the keys in it), honor it (“come and see the new car I got!”), treat it with tenderness (avoiding streets filled with potholes), nurture it (oil changes and tune-ups), and go out of our way to indulge it (frequent washes and wax jobs).

To cherish something is to hold it dear. That means you think about it, and when you do, you feel great pleasure. You have great affection for it.

If you cherish something, you go out of your way to show it is important to you and thus you showcase it. How many times does a newly engaged woman show off her engagement ring to friends and coworkers? How many times does an excited new car owner ask his friends to come outside and see his new “baby”?

Applied to relationships, when we cherish someone, we naturally want to protect them—it could be physical protection, but also protection of an emotional or spiritual sort, or their reputation or health. We’ll treat them with tenderness, because they matter so much to us. We will look for ways to nurture them and at least occasionally go out of our way to indulge them. If we cherish someone, we will hold them dear. That means we will purposely think about them, and when we do, it will bring us great pleasure. The thought of them will make us smile. When we cultivate such an affection toward someone, we naturally want others to see their worth so we find ways to showcase our spouses to others, so others can take the same pleasure from our spouses’ excellence as we do.

In one sense, love is the nurturing aspect of marriage, while cherish is the “tasting” aspect of marriage. Love meets the need; cherish tickles the tongue

Cherish is the style in which Song of Songs is written. Indeed, as love is known by 1 Corinthians 13, so cherish is captured in Song of Songs.

Love is about being gracious and altruistic.
“Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Cherish is about being enthusiastic and enthralled.
“How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice” (Song of Songs 4:10).

Love tends to be quiet and understated.
“[Love] does not envy, it does not boast” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Cherish boasts boldly and loudly.
“My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand” (Song of Songs 5:10).

Love thinks about others with selflessness.
“[Love] is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Cherish thinks about its beloved with praise.
“Your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (Song of Songs 2:14).

Love doesn’t want the worst for someone.
“Love does not delight in evil” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Cherish celebrates the best in someone.
“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” (Song of Songs 1:15).

Love puts up with a lot.
“[Love] always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Cherish enjoys a lot.
“His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely” (Song of Songs 5:16).

Love is about commitment.
“Love . . . endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8 ESV).

Cherish is about delight and passion.
“Your name is like perfume poured out” (Song of Songs 1:3).

Love and cherish never compete—they complement each other and even complete each other. At times, they certainly overlap. By pursuing cherish, we’ll become better lovers as well.

This is an excerpt that has been taken, courtesy of Zondervan, from “Cherish” by Gary Thomas. 

Gary Thomas is a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. He unites the study of Scripture, church history, and the Christian classics to foster spiritual growth and deeper relationships. Gary's unique message will help you: Embrace the unique way that you interact with God, partner in the spiritual growth and character formation of your spouse, build a closer, grace-based family, and enjoy God with a new sense of freedom and delight.

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Publication date: February 14, 2017