Love Like You Mean It
What is love? Maybe we should let God, Who is Love, define it. Bob Lepine carefully extracts each characteristic of love from 1 Corinthians 13 and shares it with Michelle Hill, on "FamilyLife This Week".
About the Guest
- Bob Lepine unpacks ten attributes of genuine love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 in his new book "Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage That Honors God". https://shop.familylife.com/p-5890-love-like-you-mean-it.aspx
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What is love? Maybe we should let God, Who is Love, define it. Bob Lepine carefully extracts each characteristic of love from 1 Corinthians 13, and shares it with Michelle Hill.
Love Like You Mean It
Michelle: You’ve been locked in your house with your kids and your spouse for—what?—four or five months now? Those irritations are starting to pile up [squealing noise]. We all know that we’re called to love one another, but what does that love really look like? You know, the kind of love that’s in 1 Corinthians 13—that’s a hard love. Here’s Bob Lepine explaining it.
Bob: First Corinthians 13 says: “Love is not rude; it’s not irritable; and it’s not resentful. It doesn’t catalog a record of wrongs”; and come back around and say: “Well, you did this wrong,” “You did this wrong,” “You did this wrong.” Love lets a lot of that stuff go and says, “I value our relationship more than I value my preferences.”
Michelle: We’re going to talk about loving like you mean it with Bob Lepine on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. It is summer time; we are in the middle of summertime. Usually, that means wedding season; although this year, well—the wedding season does look just a little different. For some, it looks very different!
But if you remember weddings, usually the most popular Scripture for pastors to preach at a wedding is the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. You know the one I’m talking about, right? It starts out with talking about a gong or a clanging symbol, and then moves into: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud.” All of that seems to be a tall order to me. I don’t know about you; but I’m just sitting here, going, “How do I put all of that into place?”
Well, Bob Lepine has written a book on 1 Corinthians 13; and it’s titled Love Like You Mean It. I called on him to help explain some things to me and to you. As you know, Bob is co-host of FamilyLife Today®. He’s a pastor at a local church here in town. And Bob has mentored me in my knowledge of God’s Word; and he has also mentored me in my job here, behind the microphone. I was excited when he wrote this book, because it meant that I get to interview him. Here’s my conversation with Bob Lepine.
Michelle: So Bob, I can walk into any Christian bookstore, or any Barnes & Noble®, and I can look for the aisle on marriage and relationships, and find lots of books—
Michelle: —lots of books on how to better my relationship/on how to make marriage work. So why write another book [Laughter] to add to that aisle?
Bob: There is nothing new under the sun, as they say! [Laughter] Many of those books are practical and helpful. I’ve benefited from reading a lot of those books and interviewing people, who have written those books over the years.
What struck me was our understanding of the whole idea of love in our day has been more shaped by the culture we live in than it has by God’s Word. You get to a passage like 1 Corinthians 13, where there’s this biblical description of what love is, and I’m thinking, “We need to spend time just thinking carefully and deeply, and maybe reshaping our picture of what we mean when we say, ‘love,’ so that it aligns with what God’s Word says love is.” That’s what was at the heart of this book.
Michelle: So you want to help people understand what real love is and how to live it out in marriage. As you look at the scope of society, what are you seeing as people think of what real love is? And how has that changed?
Bob: Most of our ideas about love are romantic, and most of them are based on how I’m going to benefit from this relationship. So there’s a factor when we think about love: “What am I getting out of this?” Well, the biblical view of love is not, “What am I getting out of this?” The biblical view is: “What am I contributing to this? What am I giving? What am I putting into this?” Because love is not about what we receive; it’s about what we give.
It’s also not primarily an emotional response to another person. It’s an act of the will, not an act of the emotions; because our emotions change. Some days, I look at my wife, and I feel differently about her than I do on other days.
Bob: If that’s how I’m thinking: “That this is real love—how I feel today. I feel ‘in love’ with her,”—and the next day—“I don’t feel in love with her,”—well, that’s not a foundation that you build a marriage on. So love has to be: “Here’s how I’m choosing to live today, in a loving way, with my spouse.” That you can build a relationship that goes the distance on.
Michelle: Well, and those words—you know, just an act of the will, and not a victim of emotions, as John Stott said—
Michelle: —that has been sitting with me so hard because we live in a society, where it’s all about feelings. It’s all about feelings—if I like you/if I don’t like you—“What you say; I disagree with you, so I’m not going to talk to you today,” sort of thing. That’s really been sitting with me; because the act of the will—well, what does that look like?
Bob: It’s a decision. It’s what we said we were going to do when we stood before God and these witnesses and exchanged vows. We said it’s not going to be based on circumstances—so whether it’s “better or worse, richer/poorer, sickness/health”—it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. We’re going to choose to love one another even if the circumstances change. And we said it’s going to be based on a decision to “love, honor, and cherish,”—not based on whether I feel like it today—but “I’m going to choose to value you, to honor you, [and] to invest in us as a relationship.”
Again, you go back to the words in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient.” “I’m going to choose to be patient. I’m going to choose to be kind. I’m going to choose not to be arrogant, or not to boast, or not to be self-seeking.” All of these descriptive words—I’m going to choose to do these things, because that’s what love compels me to do.
Michelle: And that’s hard! I mean, when you’re talking about that, it’s difficult. It’s not that easy, especially when, like you said, it’s an act of the will. As you’re talking about those marriage vows, that’s a commitment.
Bob: Yes; we think love is rainbows and sunflowers; and love really shows itself when you put on the work boots and the work gloves and say, “This is going to be hard.” I mean, think about people you’ve met, who have been in very challenging circumstances.
I think about people we’ve interviewed on FamilyLife Today. Charlie and Lucy Weidemeyer—when Charlie was diagnosed with ALS—his wife Lucy, now, was going to be, not just a wife, but a caregiver. She was going to be the one who was going to get him out of bed/physically lift him out of bed, which wound up creating back problems for her because she’s a little, tiny thing; he’s a big guy.
She chose to sacrifice, because that’s what love calls you to do. When her marriage dreams and her marriage reality—now, were two different things—she said, “I’m not giving up on the reality, because it’s not the dream I had. I’m going to love in the midst of this reality, because that’s what honors God.” And here’s what she found—and here’s what others find—the people who choose to do that find a deep joy and a richness in the relationship that they would miss if they just went with the superficial, “Well, this is not what I dreamed it was going to be, so I’m out!” or “…so I’m passive,” or “…so I’m going to be unhappy.”
No; when you dig in, when you sacrifice, when you give of yourself, God meets you there and gives grace; and there’s a deeper level of intimacy and joy that happens in a marriage.
Michelle: The blessings of God for following Him.
Bob: Exactly; exactly!
Michelle: So as you’re unpacking “Love is patient; love is kind,” you were talking about “Love one another earnestly,”—
Michelle: —“earnestly.” Earnestly is a strong word. You unpack, just really, Jesus and Judas, and that last night. Jesus knew what Judas was going to do—and He could have done so many other things—He did not, because He knew that God was in control; He knew that God was working it out. Apply this to a difficult marriage.
Bob: Well, so here is the night before the crucifixion. Jesus and the disciples are in the garden and they’re praying together. One of them has left. Judas has gone to get the temple guards, and he’s coming to betray Jesus. Jesus knows betrayal is about to happen, and Judas walks up to Him and kisses Him. That’s the designation for the temple guards that “This is the person who needs to be arrested.”
I mean, think about betraying someone with a sign of affection. Jesus—here’s what’s remarkable—Jesus looks at Judas and says, “Friend.” That’s the first thing He says, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Jesus knew how the story would go. I think this was Jesus’ final appeal to Judas, saying, “My relationship with you—I would die for you. You’re My friend; and I’m here, ready to sacrifice Myself,” hoping that maybe Judas, in that moment, might turn/might soften; might say, “What am I doing here?”
So in a marriage situation, I’m not suggesting that—if you’re married to an abuser, or a betrayer, or someone who’s being cruel, or about to harm you in some way—that you just smile and say, “Friend.” What I’m saying is you look at that, and you say, “What is the most loving thing I can do in this situation for this person who wants to do harm to me?”
Let me just say, Michelle, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to not enable that person who’s trying to harm us.
Michelle: Yes, that’s a really good point.
Bob: So if you’re married to an abusive person, the most loving thing you can do is get them help so that they can stop this pattern of abuse that’s been a part of the marriage. That’s not good for them; it’s not good for you. But we do it here because we love that person, and we want them to be free from the bondage that they’re in that is manifesting itself in abuse.
So when Jesus says to Judas, “Friend,” I think He’s saying: “I love you. I care about you. I want to help.” And Judas, of course, didn’t avail himself. So in a marriage relationship, I think we’ve got to do the same thing with our spouse—say: “I know the pattern you’re in,”—the sin habits or whatever it is that’s manifesting itself here—“I know these things are destructive to our relationship; but I’m your friend, and I want to help. I’m ready to make sacrifices for that, because I care about you even more than I care about my own interests.”
Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit; but with humility, regard one another as more important than yourself.” If that’s applied in a marriage, that’s saying, “I’m going to regard you and what you need as being more important than myself.” That’s love! “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Michelle: You know, just as you’re talking, it brought me back around to that very first quote of it’s the act of the will, not the emotions—not being a victim of our emotions—
Michelle: —because God is at work. God is always at work!—we always know that; we can stand by that—that’s a promise!
Michelle: So if someone is walking through a really hard part in marriage—or maybe it’s not that extreme, but it’s still difficult—it’s still difficult when you just have those little tiny things—the toilet paper—you know? [Laughter]
Bob: —the irritants.
Michelle: The irritants are hard!
Bob: Right, yes.
Michelle: It’s an act of the will, saying, “God is working.”
Bob: Yes; things where we think, “Well, my way is the right way; and if you’re not doing it my way, you’re doing it the wrong way,”—as opposed to—“No, these are just choices we can make; and they really, at the end of the day, are not going to be a big deal.”
The Bible, in Proverbs, says, “It is a man’s glory to overlook a transgression.” I’m not even talking about transgressions here; I’m just talking about preferences. It’s our glory to let our spouse live the way they choose to live and not be so irritated or annoyed. That’s what love does.
Michelle: A friend was sharing at a Bible study about a year ago; we were talking about who had the biggest impact in our lives. A friend said, “My father-in-law.”
Michelle: Because at their wedding, he took her off to the side and said, “Preference is okay; you don’t have to die to self that way. That’s not dying to self to say, ‘Well, whatever coffee cup you want, dear.’”
Michelle: He said, “If you like the yellow coffee cup, say, ‘I would rather have the yellow coffee cup.’” That’s not something that you have to sit and—
Bob: —and fight about. And Mary Ann and I have said—we’ve learned this over time. I would say, first ten years of our marriage, we would think, “Your choices are wrong or bad.
Bob: “If you don’t agree with me, you’re making flawed decisions.” Because we just think, “My way of thinking is right; your way of thinking is wrong.” And we’ve learned different isn’t wrong; sometimes, it’s just different. Now, Mary Ann will say, “Well, sometimes it’s wrong.” And she’s right; there are wrong decisions we can make. But sometimes, it’s just matters of preference; and we just need to give each other a lot of grace.
“Love”—1 Corinthians 13 says—“is not rude. It’s not irritable. It’s not resentful.” It doesn’t hold onto—it doesn’t catalog a record of wrongs”; and come back around and say: “Well, you did this wrong,” “You did this wrong,” “You did this wrong.” Love lets a lot of that stuff go and says, “I value our relationship more than I value my preferences.”
Michelle: How do you get there? Because just, as I think through all of that, I’m like, “That is so hard,” because it’s a tendency to hold! [Laughter] It’s a tendency to remember. I don’t always remember the good things—I mean, sometimes I do—
Michelle: —but it’s those bad things of what you have done to me.
Bob: And this is why, to get to a loving relationship, we have to confront the tendencies in ourselves not be loving. This is not about: “How do you make your spouse more loving to you?” This is: “How you get to be a more loving person.” You begin to do the diagnosis and say: “Love is patient; am I patient?—oh, not so much. How do I address the pattern in my life of impatience?”
The Bible talks about putting off deeds of the flesh—ways of thinking that are habitual for us—and putting on godly virtue. This is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not a self-improvement course; but this is us saying: “I am impatient. My impatience reflects a self-focus. I need to confess before God and before my spouse that my impatience is wrong; it’s not honoring to God.” And then I start to cultivate the opposite of impatience: “So how can I cultivate patience? How can I train myself to be more patient?” All of this, again, done in the power of the Spirit.
What I have found in my own life is that meditating on God’s Word/memorizing Scripture—having that shape my thinking—so that, in a situation where I am triggered to be impatient, and Ephesians 4 comes to mind: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Having a verse like that in my heart/that I’m consciously aware, the next time I’m feeling impatient, I’m going to remember that verse and let that verse control my behavior rather than the momentary impatience I’m feeling.
Michelle: Yes; Bob, this is some great stuff. I want to continue in our conversation, but we need to take a break. When we come back, I want to talk more about
1 Corinthians 13 and your book, Love Like You Mean It. Stay tuned. We’ll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Today, we are talking about love—the kind of love from 1 Corinthians 13—because we don’t want to be that gong or that clanging symbol. We want to be somebody who is patient and kind. Those are the characteristics of love: you’re patient; you’re kind; you do not envy; you do not boast; you’re not proud.
We’re learning from Bob Lepine; he wrote the book, Love Like You Mean It. Here’s Part Two of my conversation with Bob.
Michelle: I want to talk about kindness; because so many times, we think kindness and niceness are the same thing; but as Lewis Smedes said, “Kindness is being ready to enhance the life of another person.” “Enhance”—talk to us about that.
Michelle: What does that look like?
Bob: Love is kind; that’s the second thing—
Bob: —that 1 Corinthians 13 says about love. If I introduce to you two people—and I said, “He’s a really nice guy”; and then I said, “This person over here, he’s a really kind person,”—you would understand that the nice guy’s a nice guy; he’s going to be friendly and he’s going to be somebody who’s easy to get along with. The kind person, you will understand, is somebody who’s going to be proactively seeking good for you. A kind person is somebody, who is thinking: “How can I demonstrate goodness toward you?” “How can I look for ways to bless you, and then act on that?”
The formula that I talk about in the book, Love Like You Mean It, is that: “My goal is your good”: “What kinds of things can I do today that are going to be for your good, and are going to make life better for you?—help you thrive, help you grow more in godliness, that are going to serve you.”
And so much of kindness is just the little acts that we do for one another. This morning, when I opened my drawer, and there was a clean undershirt in my drawer, it was because my wife has been kind toward me and said: “I’m going to take care of your laundry. You throw it in this thing; and it will come back in your drawer, clean and folded, free of charge.” That’s an act of kindness.
Michelle: Now do you take that for granted? Or do you stop and thank her for it?
Bob: I think we all take those things for granted; and this is where we have to pull back and say, “Let’s acknowledge the kindnesses that we’re doing for one another.” I just look for more opportunity to say—I don’t come down every morning and say, “Thank you again for the clean undershirt that was in my drawer,”—[Laughter]—but I have paused, somewhat regularly, saying: “I want you to know I am so grateful that you do this without any grumbling or complaining. You have served me like this for decades! I don’t take that for granted; thank you for that.”
She’ll do the same thing when I come back from getting the oil changed in her car. These are little acts of kindness we do in marriage; and when we do them, it’s the lubricant that causes the gears of marriage to run more—I’m using the oil analogy because I just talked about changing the oil—
Michelle: Yes, yes.
Bob: —but yes, the marriage runs more smoothly when there’s the oil of kindness that is present in the marriage.
Michelle: So which one of these attributes hit home for you as you were writing the book?—as you were studying 1 Corinthians 13.
Bob: I say in the book, “Take the word, ‘love,’ out of the chapter and put your name in there. You can’t get very far without saying, ‘Well! This doesn’t sound like me anymore!’” I think the thing that is really at the heart of the whole picture is that love is others-centered. First of all, it’s God-centered, and then it’s others-centered, as opposed to being self-centered.
I was just aware, as I was meditating on this passage and working on the book, how often I’m evaluating a relationship based on: “What am I getting out of this?” “How do I feel about it? Is this making me happy? Am I satisfied?” “Is Mary Ann doing her part?” It’s all, “Me, me, me,”—that’s not love! Love is me looking and saying: “What can I give here? What can I contribute here?” “How can I make your good my goal and work toward that, and make that the priority of my marriage?” I just recognized that’s where I need to step up my game.
Michelle: You know, Jonathan Edwards said, “You are not your own; He has made you for Himself.”
Michelle: Those are strong words.
Michelle: And just as you’re unpacking 1 Corinthians 13, I’m thinking, “Love is about dying to self, and loving our neighbor/our brothers and sisters; but even more so in marriage.” Because that’s really where—I guess it’s the sandpaper rub that you get.
Bob: Yes, it is; and the Bible has a phrase for that sandpaper—the phrase is “light and momentary afflictions.”
Michelle: [Laughing] It’s true.
Bob: And we look at these, and we go: “These are horrible things we’re going through! These are horrible circumstances we’re dealing with.” And I’m not trying to minimize anybody’s circumstances—because some of them are horrible circumstances—they’re very hard; they’re painful; they’re tragic.
And the Apostle Paul, who had been through being stoned, and being beaten, and being tossed overboard, and being run out of town, and had received lashes, and he had—you read through the list in 2 Corinthians, where he says, “I had this, and this, and this”—he is the one who says, “These light and momentary afflictions are producing in us an eternal weight of glory.”
The reality of pain and suffering in a marriage—and it’s there—the Bible says, “Yes, it’s true.” Again, I’m not trying to minimize it; but the Bible says “It’s light and it’s momentary compared with the glory that’s ahead for us.” One day, we will look back on that and say, “What seemed so crushing in the moment; we see it now differently.”
I think of it this way—my wife has given birth five times—she has told me that it’s, other than having a kidney stone, it’s the most painful experience she’s been through in her life. [Laughter] And in the middle of it, you think, “I’m not sure I can survive this moment.” And an hour later, when you’re holding a baby in your arms, the pain you just went through is starting to subside; because the joy of that child has so overtaken you.
When we press through the pain—this goes to the end of the passage in
1 Corinthians—where it says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends,”—so yes, in the middle of hard times and in the middle of real suffering, we bear; we believe; we hope; we endure; and we keep loving. God promises, in that, we will find Him; we’ll find grace; we’ll find joy; and we’ll come out on the other side, and say, “That was hard, but it was for my good.” There will be joy in what comes out of those painful circumstances and situations.
Michelle: Good words, Bob. Thank you so much for helping us understand
1 Corinthians 13 better and for joining me today.
Bob: Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your program.
Michelle: Yay!! [Laughter]
Michelle: [Laughter] So fun to have Bob in the studio, talking about his latest book, Love Like You Mean It. He wasn’t on FamilyLife Today; he is on my show! That was even better. Well, Bob’s book, Love Like You Mean It, is just out. We have more information for that book on our website; go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
You know, there’s a lot going on in our world right now; and in all of that, there’s a lot of grief and heaviness that just seems to be weighing us down. To help us work through our feelings and our emotions, Ron Deal is going to join me next week. We’re going to talk about the elusive losses in the death of loved ones. I hope you can join us for that.
Thanks for listening. I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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