Love – looking out for number 1

Continuing the work of unpacking what Love is, this post will focus on a couple more characteristics. Between this post and the next one, I’m hoping to wrap it up.

The first is thing we’re looking at is the notion that love is not self-seeking. Here the idea is that to act in love means not seeking to further ones own profit or advantage. The easiest way for me to conceptualize this is simply that love isn’t “looking out for number 1”. All of us know someone whose mission in life is seemingly to make sure they always get ahead or come out on top. They insist things are even or fair, and they give to get. I again can see myself in this, where so much of our relationship (both dating and early marriage) was me trying to make sure I benefited. I would do nice things, fully expecting to have nice things done in return. I would go a little out of my way serve Shelley expecting that she would go farther out of her way to serve me.

Just like everything else we’ve seen about love so far, Paul again is stressing unselfishness.

Love keeps no record of being wronged. The King James version says, [love] thinketh no evil. The Greek words here are are logizomai and kakos. Logizomai means to keep record or account of, and also can be translated as to pass to one’s account, to impute. Additionally, kakos is the Greek word for wrong or evil. To be honest, the research on this one aggravated me. Some of the commentaries I read made me cringe. The reason is that some folks translate the meaning of this verse to be ‘forgive and forget’. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how someone can actually believe that we are to forgive and forget. One commentator even insinuated that not forgetting wrong’s committed against is sinning. To forgive is, supernaturally, a gift to ourselves to release us from a prison of bitterness and resentment. It is worshipful and God honoring. Without spending too much time on this rabbit trail, to suggest that we forget wrongs committed against us is to demand we do something beyond our control. I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to will myself to forget something. I can try not to dwell on it, and I can do my best to not put myself in situations to be reminded of it, but I cannot force myself to forget.

Anyway, I think the gist here is three-fold. First, that love doesn’t keep a tick-mark tally of wrongs. It’s easy to keep score, but its also incredibly damaging.

Second, that when we love well, we don’t keep that tally in our back-pocket to use when we need to feel justified or exonerated. We don’t use those things as leverage to get our way, nor to rationalize our wrongs.

And finally, when we love well we don’t let our spouses wrongs become what defines them. None of us want to feel like we’re the sum total of our bad behaviors. When we love well, we guard against allowing ourselves to believe the worst about our spouse. No matter the wrongs committed, we’re still made in the image of God, infinitely valuable.

Here are a couple questions I’m challenged with:

1)   What’s my motivation for keeping a tally of my wife’s wrongs? I’d like to say I don’t keep a tally, but the truth is I do.

2)   When I act in self-seeking ways it is usually because I feel a sense of injustice. I think I’m getting the short end of the stick. What keeps me from simply talking to Shelley about it, rather than pulling some self-seeking stunt?

3)   Why do I feel a sense of injustice when Shelley benefits in our relationship?

Thank You Letter From An EMB Wife

This is a letter we received from an EMB wife whose husband went to the Every Man’s Battle Workshop in 2014.

Dear Steve,

I cannot thank you enough for what happened to my husband at Every Man’s Battle last weekend.

We have been married for 44 years. We have 9 precious children. Most of my marriage has been almost intolerable. I tolerated the intolerable until I found out that I was worth love. God’s love.

My husband’s dad baptized him in the pool of pornography at a very young age. In that baptismal pool all of his five senses were stopped (except for his ability to see himself and his needs). He had no ears to hear me or others. No eyes to see. No heart. I felt hopeless except for trusting God for a miracle. Nothing I said would be heard.

He abandoned me for a total of 10 years while he gave himself to his hobby. Everything was my fault to him. It took a crisis in our marriage 14 years ago for me to start to get strong. I have been on a journey. I went back in your archives and have listened to every one of your shows. I can’t thank you enough.

I required my husband to attend Every Man’s Battle last weekend. I got a new husband when he came back! I got my miracle!

Thank you Jason! Thank you New Life! Thank you Jesus!

My husband has come back and he talked to our two oldest sons yesterday and is going to talk to all of our children. We are giving them your book “Every Man’s Battle. We are going to stop this generational curse. We are building the walls!

Thank you so much!

Love – Patience and Anger

 

Love_Overlooks

Before we dive in and unpack thes attributes, I want to point out the kind of love we’re dealing with. Remember, in the Greek there were 4 different types of love: eros, storge, philia and agape. Each had a different meaning and application. These all get lumped into our modern day term, “love”. So we use the same word when we describe our affinity for certain foods (I love fried okra) and our affection for our spouses (I love my wife). Without getting too far into the nitty gritty, what Paul is describing in these verses is Agape. To keep it simple, think of agape as “loving even without any self-benefit”. Of the 4 types of love, this one requires the most of us. It requires the most work.

P.S. – I already don’t like where this is going….

The first attribute of love that Paul names is patience. The Greek word is: makrothymeō. It means ‘to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others. To be slow to avenge or punish.’ I like what one commentator, Matthew Henry, says about it:

It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

Patience is a powerful, strong, and willful thing. It is having the position and power to punish, yet choosing not to. Isn’t it interesting that the first thing Paul says about love is that it’s slow to punish? Logically it makes sense to me; if we avenge or punish our partner quickly after an offense, there is no time for sorting things out, explaining intentions, reconciliation or redemption. It just explodes.

Let’s think about it for a minute: what does it look like to hold back punishment? For me it means not popping-off with some hurtful comment. It also looks like engaging the conversation rather than giving Shelley the cold-shoulder. Another angle is that when I am hurt I withhold compliments and/or affection; that’s punishment too.

How do you punish your spouse and what might it look like to practice patience?

This patience thing leads me to another question though:  does Love ever get angry? Does the text say that Love means I’ll never be angry with my spouse?

No, it doesn’t. In fact this is addressed by another attribute: being slow to anger. Depending on the translation you may also see it as “not irritable” and also “not easily provoked”. Here again, background is important. The Greek word is, paroxynō, meaning to ‘provoke, irritate or rouse to anger.’The concept this term conveys is easily misunderstood. We might be inclined to read it as “love does not get angry”, which misses the heart of the matter. Instead, think of it as a quick temper; Love doesn’t have a quick temper. Loving in this way means we don’t fly-off-the-handle. While we may in fact become angry, it is only after we have practiced patience. It is similar in notion to what is described in Isaiah 5:25; “Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people. “ God wasn’t irritated so he wanted to quickly prove his point. Nor was he responding to being provoked or taunted. He was roused to anger, over time, by the idolatrous lifestyle of his people. He didn’t just lose his stuff one afternoon and make a rash decision to punish his children. It took time. He was patient.

Thus, the gist of what Paul is describing for us is a love that is going to overlook as many offenses as it can, for as long as it can, in hopes of a change in relationship.

That is so counter to my concept of love. I thought love meant Shelley should change what bothers me so I don’t have to overlook anything. If she would act differently, then I would act differently. See the conditions on that? Thus the work of love was on her, not me. We now know that’s not love at all; its selfishness.

The question I’m asking myself in light of this new understanding, and perhaps you’d like to ask yourself, is this:

In what ways am I asking my wife to change to make it easier for me to be patient and slow to anger?