Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing
FamilyLife Today hosts Dave and Ann Wilson interview Bob Lepine about his new book, "Love Like You Mean It," and the marriage-transforming truths found in 1 Corinthians 13. Unfortunately, many of us use the phrase "I love you" too casually. Our view of love is based more on how marriage makes us feel rather than how we make our spouse feel. But according to Jesus, the greatest experience of love, in marriage and in life, is found only by those who lay down their lives for the people around them. Learn one practical tip on how to know whether you are displaying biblical love.
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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Bob Lepine talks about the marriage-transforming truths found in 1 Corinthians 13. Learn one practical tip on how to know whether you are displaying biblical love.
Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing
Bob: First Corinthians, Chapter 13, is a pretty famous chapter in the Bible; it's all about love. Most of us have heard it, but Dave Wilson wonders how many of us have really paid attention to what the chapter says.
Dave: We talk about the love chapter. As a pastor, I've done many weddings. Boy, I don't know a percentage—but maybe half of them—somebody's going to read
1 Corinthians 13. Yet, often, we have really no idea what it means, and why Paul wrote it, what was going on; because I don't think he wrote it to a married couple at a wedding.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 6th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. The way love is described in I Corinthians 13—is that the way people would describe the love in your marriage? We'll explore that idea today. Stay with us.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We're going to talk about love. Are you ready to talk about love?
Ann: I'm ready to talk about you. [Laughter]
Dave: It's an exciting day—[Laughter]
Ann: It is exciting!
Dave: —at FamilyLife Today because we get to interview Mr. Bob Lepine about his new book.
Bob: So I've been at work for the last several months on a book—
Dave: Several months? You've been working on this your whole life. [Laughter] We know it.
Ann: It's true; principles in this book are the core of who you are.
Bob: You know, you talk about marriage and family for two-and-a-half decades, and yes, that does kind of get built, bone-deep, into you.
I took 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter that we all know as the love chapter, and I thought, “We think of this in kind of generic terms, but what if we applied it specifically to marriage? What does it mean that, in marriage, our love for one another is patient and kind?—and all of the qualities listed there.”
This week, there's a book coming out called Love Like You Mean It, which—
Dave: Where did you get that title? [Laughter] I never heard that before.
Ann: Woo hoo!
Bob: Our listeners know that we have an annual event—the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise—which, by the way, we're still planning to sail in February; we think everything's going to be okay to do that. But that's the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.
When I was thinking about 1 Corinthians 13, I thought, “Is there a better title than Love Like You Mean It?—because that's what this chapter of the Bible is all about, so that's what this book is all about. The book is out this week; you can now order it online.
Dave: How do you like saying that, Bob?
Bob: It's/it's—you know. You know what it's like. [Laughter] It's exciting; and I hope that God's going to use this book in the lives of a lot of folks, because I think our views on how we think about love have gotten twisted in the culture. I think we need to get back to thinking biblically about the subject of love rather than letting the Hallmark® Channel or Rom-coms [romantic comedies] tell us what love's supposed to be like.
Dave: You know, when I got your manuscript, obviously the first thing I did was look at the chapter titles, which were great; because every guy looks at the chapter titles before he decides he's going to read the book. [Laughter] Am I right?—
Ann: I don't think I've ever done that.
Dave: —or is it just me?—really?
Ann: Do women not do that?
Bob: You looked at the chapter titles to see which chapters are talking about intimacy; right? [Laughter]
Dave: No, I did not. [Laughter] Although, it was in there.
But then, I'll never forget reading this paragraph in your introduction, which really hit me. It's like, “This is so true.” Let me read it. Bob, you wrote:
In fact, if we're really honest, most of us got married because of how our spouse made us feel when we were together. We liked the feeling; so we said, “I'll move in, and wear a ring, and share a house payment, and have kids with you, as long as you keep me feeling that way.” Deep down, we don't get married so we can love someone else; we get married because we fall in love with the feeling of being loved. Most of us get married to get, not to give.
I read that and I'm like, “That is so true.”
Dave: And yet the rest of your book is like, “Okay; what's real love look like?”
Talk about that a little bit, though; because I think we don't want to admit that.
Dave: But when we read that, it's like, “Wow; I think I did do that.”
Ann: I stopped there, too, Bob; because of the same reason. When you really sit and reflect on that, it's like: “Yes, I loved how I felt—how Dave made me feel—and I hoped that I made him feel good too”; but that really made me stop. When you think of all the romance movies—
Ann: —I remember when Twilight came out—I'm like: “What is this? It's about vampires; it's so weird.” And I thought, “I have to watch this to see what the pull is with these teenager girls.” I realized, “Oh, it's because this person loves this girl so much, and everyone longs for that; they want to be loved like that.”
Bob: That's where I think our thinking about love has gotten twisted, because we're thinking that love is about how we feel and what we get. The Bible says love is about how we serve others and what we give to others.
Ann: It's not as much fun.
Bob: No! In fact, it's hard work to love someone well. And yet, stop and think, when we're born again/when we're converted, Jesus says, “Here's what matters most: all of the Law and Prophets is summed up in ‘Love God,’”—which doesn't mean just have nice feelings about God—it means: “Live your life in such a way that you express your love for God by how you serve Him/by your devotion toward Him.”
And then, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We tend to think of love as the benefit we get and the way we feel when somebody loves us. At age 23, when I married Mary Ann,
that's what I was signing up for: “Give me more of this. I want it regularly. This feels so good. I want you to make me feel this way all the time.”
It didn't take long before I realized that's not biblical love. Biblical love is: “I'm here to pour my life out for your good, so that you can thrive.” That's what it means to love you—for your good to be my goal—I think we've got to rethink our view of this as we come to marriage.
Ann: How did you come to that realization? Every wife is thinking, “I wish my husband would come to that realization.” [Laughter]
Dave: I think my wife is thinking that. [Laughter]
Bob: Over time, I came to the realization because I recognized that a self-focused approach to love is not ever going to get you what your soul is really longing for. I think what we think we're longing for is, again, that feeling. At the core, we want to be fully known and fully accepted by somebody else. When we get a little taste of that—somebody says, “I know you, and I think you're amazing; I think you're wonderful,”—we go, “I've been looking for somebody who thinks I'm wonderful”; and so “You fit the bill; and I'd like to spend time with you, because I'd like somebody who keeps thinking I'm wonderful.” Well, you get married; and you spend a few months, or a few weeks, or a few days, and then you go, “This isn't exactly what I was looking for.”
The hidden truth in Scripture is that, when we start to view love correctly, and see it as pouring out our life for somebody else, there is something that happens in our soul that never happens any other way. We think it's going to happen when we feel right; but when we're really loving another person, there's something God does to enlarge our soul/our heart; and we come away, going: “Yes! That's what my soul was longing for—to be used by God to bless another person,” “…to be used by God to help another person thrive.”
There's a satisfaction in that, that trumps just having somebody say, “Oh, you're wonderful. I think you're so special,”—right? That's why—you've worked around pro athletes, who've been told their special their whole lives.
Dave: —all their lives, yes.
Bob: And so, they find somebody who says, “Oh, I think you're wonderful.” And they go, “Well, you should; because everybody else thinks I'm wonderful.” And then they get married; but they're still tempted outside of marriage because what they thought would satisfy them doesn't really satisfy them. So, they're looking for: “Does everybody think I'm wonderful?” “Can I find more people who think I'm wonderful?”
What all of us need to realize is: “That's not what our soul is longing for. Our soul is longing to be used by God to see other people thrive and grow.” When that happens, we go: “Yes! This is what I was made to do and to be. I was made to love other people; and in marriage, I’m made to love my wife in such a way that she flourishes, she thrives, she blossoms. When that happens, there's no more soul-satisfying experience. That's what love gives us.
Dave: So speaking to your wife—let's go back to the early days. You've been married to Mary Ann—how long?
Bob: We just passed 41 years.
Dave: So when you first fell in love, how did you know? What was it like? Tell us about it.
Bob: Well, I started using the word, “love,” in my relationship with Mary Ann way too early/way prematurely. What I was expressing was: “I like you,” and “I think you're special,” and “I hope you'll stop dating other people,” and “I would like it just to be us.”
I'm saying it to her; she's not saying, “I love you,” back to me, because she sees it as something sacred. In fact, she's thinking: “You're just throwing this around to manipulate me. You're just using this word, thinking, ‘If I say that, then I will have her under my powers. I can get her to do things,’”—you know, whatever.
I used the word much too casually. We got married; again, I'm thinking, “This is nice.” I'm thinking like the Beach Boys were thinking: “Wouldn't it be nice if we were older? We could say goodnight and stay together,”—that was my view of what love means.
I think that, after I'd been married for a couple of years—and I'm starting to read the Bible; and I'm seeing verses like, “Greater love has no man than this. He lays down his life for his friends,” or “This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us,”—and I'm going, “Oh, that's a different deal.”
Loving Mary Ann doesn't just mean that I make her feel special; it means that I sacrifice for her good. In fact, sometimes she might not feel great; but if I'm doing things, where I'm committed to her good, that's really what is important and matters. And ultimately, it's not even—“Am I doing it for her good?”—but—“Am I doing what God wants me to do in her life?”—right? It's not just: “Is she happy with the marriage?” The question is: “Is God happy with the marriage?”
Ann: Do you remember a time when you did that?—where you served Mary Ann, where it wasn't about you; but it was about her, and you experienced what you just talked about? You felt like, “Oh, this is it!”
Bob: So here's what comes to mind when you ask that question. When she was pregnant with Amy, she had back labor. I didn't know what back labor was; right?
She would say: “My back is killing me; I'm having these back labor pains. Would you just rub my back?—just massage my lower back.”
And she wanted me to do it for like 15 minutes; right? [Laughter] My arms were getting tired, and there was no benefit being derived for me from rubbing her back. This was just to help her feel better; but I could sense her starting to relax a little bit, and her muscles were not as tight, and she was doing better. I remember pulling away and going, “This is what I'm here for—is to help.” That's a pretty simple, tangible way of doing it; but I think it's a lot of little things like that.
I tell a story in the book: Ann Voskamp was a guest on FamilyLife Today,and she told a story when she was here. She said she walked out in the back yard one day, and her husband was up on the ladder and was cleaning out the gutters of their house. She walked out and she said, “What are you doing?” He looked down; he said, “I'm loving you.” She laughed and then she thought, “No, that's exactly what he's doing.”
The little things we do for one another are ways we express love to one another. And when that's going—and when we affirm and appreciate and say, “You are a blessing to me. I am a better person because of how you love me well,”—I think that's when we experience the joy that comes from loving another person well.
Dave: So how do we get to that point? Because you hear this; and you think—when you're dating, when you're engaged, when you first get married: “I'll go clean the gutters,” “I'll rub your back for an hour,” “…whatever you want,”—I'm so in love; I'm infatuated; I have high feelings. Then at some point, that's gone.
Dave: And you think, “I'm out of love”; or are you just learning to love them? What's the process of getting to true, godly—we're going to talk about it in a second—
1 Corinthians 13 love?
Bob: Yes; I think the process is Romans 12:2: don't be conformed in your thinking about love to what the culture tells you love looks like. Our friend, Michael Easley, says, “Don't let the culture catechize you; let the Word of God catechize you.” So how do you reshape your thinking about love? You study what the Scriptures say about love. You get into 1 Corinthians 13 and you see, first of all, how important love is; and then you see the characteristics of love.
I mean, think about those characteristics that are in that passage. There's not much that is: “Love is warm,” “Love is soft,” “Love is wonderful,”—no. It's: “Love is longsuffering”; right? And then: “It's kind,” and “It doesn't insist on its own way,” and “It rejoices in the truth; it doesn't rejoice in wrong-doing.” You go through all of the passage, and you see this is hard work. Loving another person/being a lover is not for the faint of heart.
Just like if you want to be a pro athlete, you have to do the workouts. If you want to be a pro lover—which all of us should want to do, because Jesus was our model of what great love looks like—if you want to be a great lover/Jesus says that's what you were made to do—then you're going to have to/there's some hard work you're going to have to do to cultivate patience, and kindness, and humility, selflessness, and tenacity, and all of the things that go to make up what love looks like.
Dave: Well, it's interesting; you know, we talk about the love chapter.
Dave: As a pastor, I've done many weddings. Boy, I don't know a percentage—but maybe half of them—somebody's going to read 1 Corinthians 13.
Dave: And yet often, we have really no idea what it means, and why Paul wrote it, what was going on. Give us a little background so we can understand, because I don't think he wrote it to a married couple at a wedding—
Bob: No; in fact, he writes it in the context of a church that is one of the most carnal churches. If you had to pick a church that looks worldly in the New Testament, the Corinthian church—these were young believers, who had not yet pulled themselves away from their pagan practices. They'd come to Jesus, but they'd brought a lot of paganism with them.
First Corinthians is written to these people to say: “Now, look; as followers of Christ, there are ways of acting and behaving that are not—you're not doing it,”—so things like—“Don't take your brothers to court,” and “You know the sex scandal you've got going on with the mother and her son-in-law?—no! That should not be.” There are all kinds of behavior things that are being corrected.
And one of the things that was going on in the Corinthian church—they were very puffed up and proud about their spirituality. They exalted in their spiritual giftedness, and they would put their spiritual gifts on display. It was all kind of: “Look at me,” “Look how spiritually gifted I am,” “I'm a preacher; look at how good I am,” “Well, I'm an administrator; I'm good at this,” “Well, I have the gift of prophecy,” “Well, I can speak in tongues.” They've got all of this going on, and it's just all carnal.
So Paul, after he writes in 1 Corinthians 12 about spiritual gifts—and corrects a lot of their bad thinking about that—he says, “But I'm going to show you a more excellent way.” That's how he ends 1 Corinthians 12—he says, “Let me show you the more excellent way.”
In verses 1-3 of Chapter 13, he says it doesn't matter how spiritually gifted you are, it doesn't matter how sacrificial you are, it doesn't matter how much you're willing to empty yourself—if love is not the foundation for this—and by that, what we mean is: “If there's not a fundamental commitment to sacrificing yourself for the good of other people”—so we're defining love that way: a fundamental commitment to sacrificing yourself for the good of others; that's the definition we're working with—“If that's not foundational to how you're walking with Christ, all of the giftedness is nothing.”
Now, he doesn't say, “All of the giftedness is okay; but it doesn't have as much value, as if you add love to it.” He says, “It has no value if love's not the foundation.” The chapter title there is “Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing.” All of the weight and substance is on: “Am I committed to pouring myself out for the fundamental good of other people?” And that's what love is.
Now, if you're committed to that, now your spiritual giftedness can bear fruit. Now you can sacrifice yourself for others in a way where God is glorified and where they benefit. But as long as it's about you, there's no value to it at all. That's a part of how we've got to reshape our thinking.
Dave: I love verse one of 1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” I want to walk on stage sometime with a cymbal—
Bob: Yes. [Laughter]
Dave: —and just say, “You know, you can do all kinds of amazing things, even as a church/even as a community of God, but if it doesn't have love“—and just start clanging that thing—because he's [Paul’s] making a really strong point; right?
Bob: Yes; Phil Ryken, who's the president of Wheaton College, says, “If love is not core to what you're doing when you speak, here's what people hear: ‘Bong, bong, bong, clang, clang, clang.’ It's empty.” And he's right.
You've heard people say people don't care how much you know until they know about how much you care. If people don't see in you a commitment to their good, then all of your wisdom is hollow and empty to them. This is why love's got to be at the core of all this for us.
Ann: So you look at this—and you take it piece by piece—where you say: “Love is patient,” “Love is longsuffering.”
Ann: That is hard. How do we apply that? What's that look like in our marriage?
Bob: This is where I'm hoping people will get a copy of the book. By the way, there's a video series that we're putting together, too, that is going to go along with this; so small groups can go through this. But I'm hoping that people will say, first of all: “Yes, I need to think biblically about love; and I want to pursue being a loving person. I want, for God's glory, and because He made me for this, I want to be a person who loves others/who pours out my life in service for others.”
This means dying to self. What did Jesus say?—“If anyone would come after Me, deny self, pick up your cross, follow Me; pour your life out for others,” —that's what we signed on for as Christians—“That's what I want my life to be about.”
In marriage, I want Mary Ann's good to be a higher goal than my own pleasure/my own
satisfaction. I think we, first of all, have to start by saying: “That's the goal,” and “If that's the goal, then now I need to figure out: ‘How do I cultivate the things that are talked about here?’”
In each of the chapters, we go through:
What does it mean to be longsuffering?
What does it mean to be patient? How do I cultivate patience in my life?
What does it mean that I'm supposed to be kind? Does that mean that I just say, “Okay, you're a nice person”? No, I think it's deeper than just being nice; nice and kind are two different words.
What does it mean that I don't insist on my own way?
What does it mean that I'm not rude or irritable?
All of these things that the Bible makes clear—this is what real love looks like.
I've got to tell you—in writing this book, I get to the end and go, “Man, I can't do this.” It's overwhelming to think that I can consistently be this kind of a person, but that's where grace comes in. That's where Jesus says: “I know, but I can be that kind of person in you and through you. You keep surrendering to Me, and we'll keep growing on this together.” And you'll be more loving next year than you are this year if you just pursue this and make this your goal.
Dave: Yes; I know, when I've taught this/when I've read this, I had the exact same sentiment. It was like: “This is impossible. This is so much like God; a human being can't achieve it without God.”
Dave: There's no way; and so to try to understand it, we've got to talk some more.
Ann: And what I'm thinking is—we so often think what our spouse isn't doing: “My husband isn't patient,” “My husband isn't kind.” I think we get into that me-ism—like: “He's not doing anything for me.”
I think, when we apply this—when I got done reading this book—I thought, “If we applied Scripture and what Bob is saying in this book, we would all have great marriages.”
Bob: It would revolutionize things.
Ann: It would revolutionize things. I love that you have these little segments pocketed throughout the book of “Talk Together.”
Ann: You have great questions that can help us move towards oneness together.
Dave: And here's a great thing; I get to say, “If you want copies of this book, you can go to FamilyLife.com right now.” [Laughter]
Bob: Actually, they can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You keep your day job; I'll take it from here. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you'd like to get a copy of the book, Love Like You Mean It. The book releases tomorrow, but you can preorder today. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order online. Or call us to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And of course, our prayer/my prayer is that this is a book that will help you love one another better. No matter where you are in your marriage, I think all of us could do a better job at loving one another; and I hope this will help a lot of couples. I hope that small groups will look at going through this book together and helping one another in the love journey. Again, you can order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, this is what we're all about, here, at FamilyLife®: providing you with practical biblical help and hope for your marriage; helping you understand and apply what the Bible says about marriage and about relationships, so that you can effectively develop a more godly family. That's our mission, here, at FamilyLife.
I want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who make this mission possible—those of you who are helping us reach more people, more often, as you support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. Especially those of you who are monthly Legacy Partners—thank you for your faithful support of this ministry through the years. We are so grateful for you.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about some of the things that the Bible says real love is: like patient, and kind, and persevering, and enduring. We'll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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