Love Is Humble
Favorite love songs can capture the heart and stick in the mind for decades. But they don't usually capture God's definition of real love. FamilyLife Today hosts Dave and Ann Wilson sit down with Bob Lepine to discuss 1 Corinthians 13:4 on why humility is such a key feature of biblical love. The kind of love that forms the foundation of a Christ-centered marriage. A love that is so counter-cultural, the early church actually invented a new word for it. Learn how to get a PhD in this kind of love and turn away from your default setting as a human being - self-centeredness.
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Bob Lepine discusses 1 Corinthians 13:4 and why humility is such a key feature of biblical love. Learn how to get a “PhD” in this kind of love and turn away from your natural default settingâ€”self-centeredness.
Love Is Humble
Bob: At the root of virtually all sin is pride, and that pride can manifest itself in a variety of ways in marriage. Dave Wilson remembers there was a pattern, early in their marriage, that was evidence of pride in his wife, Ann.
Dave: I had never, ever one time heard her admit she was wrong. When she admitted it, I’m like, “Wait, wait, wait! Stop!” I wrote it down, November 10th, 19—I’m like, “You just admitted, the first time ever.”
Ann: Well, there was a prideful-ness. I was raised in a family that—we were winners. I never heard my dad apologize. To lose at an argument meant that you were weak, so I thought I could never do that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 29th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Pride and love can’t coexist; so when pride is thriving in a marriage, love will always be diminished. We’ll talk more today about dealing with pride in marriage. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you guys have a song that was your song? Is there one, if it comes on the radio, do you look at each other like, “That’s our song; that’s it”?
Dave: There are a lot of them, Bob. I don’t think we have one.
Ann: I don’t think there’s one. We have some memories—
Bob: What would be one song—if it came on the radio—you guys would look at each other with that knowing, “That’s our song; that’s one of our songs”?
Ann: I have one in mind. Do you have one in mind?
Dave: I want to know what hers is, because it doesn’t matter what I think.
Bob: But do you have one in mind?
Dave: It only matters—I had a different one than, I guarantee, she’s thinking of. [Laughter]
Bob: What are you thinking of?
Ann: Oh, I’m thinking of Hey Jude.
Dave: Oh, yes!
Bob: Really? Oh, you have the guitar right there!
Bob: Why is that—
Dave: [Singing] “Hey, Jude,—
Bob: Why is that one of your songs?
Ann: Because it was the summer of our first year of marriage, and we were at Wilmington—
Dave: —“take a sad song”—do you want me to sing behind her?—[Laughter]—“and make it better.”
Ann: We were at an Athletes in Action summer camp; we were taking biblical classes. In the evening, we were in these dorm rooms—all these married couples living in dorm rooms without air conditioning—it was so hot you couldn’t sleep. I get this cup of ice and I pour it on the bed, which is ridiculous; and we just laid in it, like, “Ahh!” And Dave started singing Hey Jude.
Dave: Yes; I thought it would just be, you know, a oneness moment.
Bob: One of those magic moments.
Dave: But I really did, which is sort of fun. That’s my wife—she’s like making something good out of a bad situation—so I’m like, “Hey, Jude”—and then she joins in.
Ann: And we start singing [Dave and Ann singing], “Na, na, na…”
Dave: “Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude.”
Bob: Okay; okay, that’s enough. Wait, we’re on Christian radio. We have to be very careful here, okay?
Dave: Hey, that’s about John.
Bob: It’s about—
Dave: Hey, Jude—it’s a biblical book in the Bible, Bob; come on! He’s worrying about the Book of Jude! [Laughter]
Bob: Our listeners who don’t know—you were in a band in high school, right?
Dave: Oh, yes; maybe.
Bob: I was in a band in high school.
Bob: This goes deep with us.
Dave: Different decades, maybe. [Laughter]
Bob: Thanks for bringing that up! What song were you thinking about as the song that was your song?
Dave: Well, I mean, I was thinking—[playing guitar]—same band.
Bob: I Want to Hold Your Hand.
Dave: [Singing] “Oh, yeah…”
Ann: That is way too out of my decade. [Laughter] Bob, what about you and Mary Ann?
Bob: Okay, so I would do [singing You Are the Woman], “You are the woman that I’ve always dreamed of/I knew it from the start.
Dave: I told you—different decade.
Bob: [Singing] “I saw your face and [Dave and Ann joining in] that’s the last I’ve seen of my heart.”
And then the one that she really would object to, if I picked it out as the one, would be [singing], “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs…” You remember that?
Bob: [Singing Silly Love Songs] “I look around me and see it isn’t so…oh, no.” We’d get to the chorus on that, and we’d look at each other [singing all together], “I love you, I love you.”
See, these songs, while being wonderful, nostalgic love songs, I think misshaped the way all of us tend to think about love.
Ann: You’re absolutely right.
Bob: I mean, we think about it in terms of romance; we think about it in terms of passion; we think about it in terms of—
Ann: —how we feel.
Bob: —the special feeling that comes up.
But the Bible points us in a different direction when it comes to love, which—
Ann: Well, that just made everybody go, “Na-ah!” [Laughter]
Dave: “But the Bible—
Ann: —“doesn’t want that!” [Laughter]
Dave: Debbie Downer here today.
Bob: It’s not that the Bible doesn’t want that—because I’ve read Song of Solomon—okay?
Bob: It’s that the Bible says it’s bigger, it’s deeper, it’s more than just those things.
Bob: If we think it’s only those things, then we’re going to find ourselves maybe experiencing some of that and then wondering, “Where did the love go?” when, the next day, we’re not in those magic moments; right?
Dave: What we need—
Dave: —is a book on what God’s perspective on love is.
Ann: Yes, like a Love Like You Mean It.
Dave: You know of one, Bob?
Bob: You mean like the one that came out earlier this month?! Yes, I finished a book earlier this year, that is just now out, called Love Like You Mean It, where we look at
1 Corinthians 13, and look at how that applies to the marriage relationship. There are characteristics listed in verses 4 through 7 that describe love.
Ann: Of all the verses on marriage, on love, on agape love, why this verse?—why these verses?
Bob: Well, because these verses give us, I think, the most compact, comprehensive look at how we’re to understand love. Jesus is the One who said, “You want to know how to boil up the whole Bible?”—when they said, “What’s the most important thing?”—He said, “It’s simple; you’ve said it three times a day in prayer, ever since you were little: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,”—that’s the Shema. And then He says, “But there’s a second one that’s like unto it,” and He quotes from Leviticus and says, “It’s to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Loving God and loving your neighbor is not about romantic feelings or about passion; it’s about the hard work of love. If Jesus says all of the Law and the Prophets can be summed up in these two verses, then what that tells me is that love is at the foundation of everything that we’re to be about, as Christians; so we better get a master’s degree/maybe a Ph.D. in love. These verses are our Ph.D. in love.
Dave: You know, it is interesting—we had some fun with some love songs—but every one of those, really, whether they know it or not, come out of the real definition of love, which is God’s love; they’re an extension of that. They may not even get close to the understanding of it; but it’s man’s attempt to say: “I want to sing about it,” “I want to write poetry about it,” “I want to experience it,” never even knowing the center of that love is the heart of God.
Ann: Well, not only that, but you explain the different types of love in the Bible.
Ann: Tell us what those are again.
Bob: This was really interesting, because I didn’t know this until I really dove in and started to study. C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves years ago, and he talks about the four different Greek words for love. The Greek word, philos, is the word that means brotherly love/brotherly affection for one another. Storge is family love; eros is romantic or sexual love; and then the word, agape, is the word that we’ve heard that describes the kind of self-sacrificing, committed, self-emptying love.
Bob: That’s the word that’s used here in 1 Corinthians 13.
Here’s what I didn’t know. J.I. Packer says that this word was essentially a New Testament invention. He said you look at Greek literature; and this idea of selfless, self-sacrificing love is not something that the Greeks or the Romans talked about. But Christians looked at Jesus and said, “We have to have a word to describe what we’ve just seen.” Agape is the word that describes the kind of love that was demonstrated by Jesus. We didn’t have a word for this until Jesus came along and modeled for us what this love looks like.
Ann: I didn’t know that.
Dave: We’ve already talked about, previously with you, “Love is patient,”—
1 Corinthians 13—“love is kind.”
Dave: Let’s talk today—because this is one that, again, you would not initially think of putting this in as a description of love—but it’s beautiful; in verse 4 of Chapter 13: “Love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant.”
Dave: Define this for us.
Bob: Well, this is the opposite of who we are; [Laughter] okay? Arrogance is the default setting for every human being. We are all born addicted to self; we are all born with self-interest as the operating principle from which we function.
Ann: —and self-protective.
Bob: Right! We are all asking the question: “What would please me?” “What would make me happy?” “What would keep me safe?” “What benefits me?” Every decision we make—that’s our default.
Ann: Some people may be saying: “What’s wrong with that? That is protecting ourselves.”
Bob: It’s okay to be aware of threats and bodily harm; I mean, we’re not saying, “No, you could be oblivious to that.” But when your default setting is: “What pleases me?” then everybody else is just around for your benefit; right?
This is where I think, in a marriage, we have to recognize the thing that makes a marriage work is not, “Am I happy in this marriage?” or “Are you happy in this marriage?” The thing that makes a marriage work is: “Is God happy with our marriage?” When we start to make that our focus and we say, “God is happy in our marriage when we are sacrificing to serve one another,” now, all of a sudden, we have a whole different purpose and understanding of marriage.
Ann: If you sat down with a young couple about to get married, and you saw that one of them was very selfish and maybe even narcissistic, would that be a red flag? Would you say something?
Bob: Huge red flag. I think you’d have to say something. I’ve talked with young couples; I’ve said to young women: “Watch how your fiancé treats his mother,” and “If he treats her with respect, and treats her with courtesy and honors her, then that’s a good sign that he’s going to do the same thing for you. But if he disregards his mom/if he dismisses her, that’s a good indicator that someday he’s going to feel the same way about you.”
I think we have to look at: “How fundamentally self-centered are we?” recognizing, again, that’s the default for all of us. When that becomes so dominant in our lives that it controls everything we do, yes, there should be huge red flags that go up.
Dave: Which, you know, begs the question: “If that’s our default setting, how do you—
Bob: —“how do you get a reset?”
Dave: Yes; because I know, if you would ask Ann—you can ask her right now—to describe me when we started dating. That’s the word; isn’t it?
Ann: Yes; I wasn’t interested in Dave Wilson, because I thought he was arrogant.
Dave: She was completely wrong, of course; [Laughter] no, it was the truth.
Ann: The world revolved around him, and that worried me. I thought, “What would it be like to marry him if everything’s about him?”
Dave: So I’m asking the question, “Why did she start dating me?” Something changed.
Bob: The reset for arrogance is to understand what’s true about you, based on what the Bible says about you. Here’s what the Bible says about you: You are fearfully and wonderfully made; you are an image-bearer of God; you are just a little lower than the angels—I mean, there are these wonderful things—your worth is established; at the top of creation, God puts humanity and says, “This is my great creation”; so you have incredible worth.
God also says that you are wicked, and sinful, and self-focused and—just like Adam and Eve in the garden—you say, “I know what God says, but I think my way is better.” That’s what the Bible defines as sin; it’s rebellion against God and His ways.
Anybody who is focused in life on saying: “I think I know what’s the right thing to do all the time,” and “Nobody can teach me anything,” and “We’re going to operate based on what I think’s the right thing to do,” they’re going to be in for a long, hard road.
The way to reset is to: “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and He will exalt you in due time,”—that’s what the Bible says. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. We have to humbly go before God and confess, “Lord, I think too highly of myself.” I remember doing this in my college years.
Dave: Were you arrogant?
Bob: Sure I was! Yes, and somebody called me out. Actually, a guy sat down with me; and we’d been at a summer camp. I was one of the counselors at the summer camp. The camp leader pulls me aside in the middle of the week and he says, “We’ve been praying for you this week.” [Laughter]
Dave: That’s always a good one!
Bob: I said, “What?” He said, “You just always want the spotlight on you, don’t you?”
I thought, “Wait, you don’t even know me”; right? I mean, “We’ve known each other for four days, and all of a sudden, you’re drawing all these conclusions about me.” I remember backing away and saying, “Okay, God, was that You speaking to me through him?—or is that just this guy, and he’s off base?”
God said, “No, that’s Me.” I went away, going, “He was right; I have an issue with pride, with arrogance, with wanting to be in the spotlight.” Then I spent about a year—and here’s what I found—when I would say to people, “Yes, I’m wrestling with pride and with being self-focused,” I found they were like, “Oh, man.” I thought: “Oh, this works!
Dave: “That works!”
Bob: Yes; “I can get more attention.”
Dave: —like a humble brag?
Bob: Yes! “If I’m doing the whole humble thing, people will really think I’m more spiritual.”
There was probably a good year, where—
Ann: —you just twisted it a little bit.
Bob: Exactly. I’m getting the attention by pretending to be humble.
Ann: Well, I didn’t have that part; I didn’t necessarily need the spotlight.
What I realized, after we were married awhile—I realized I would make a mistake, and I had a really hard time apologizing and admitting that I was wrong.
Dave: I wrote down, on paper, the date. This is—how long were we—we were married yet?
Ann: Yes, we’d been married like a couple of years.
Dave: I had never, ever one time heard her admit she was wrong. When she admitted, I’m like: “Wait, wait, wait! Stop!” And I wrote it down, November 10, 19—I’m like, “You just admitted, the first time ever.”
Ann: There was a prideful-ness, and I think that that’s very similar. I was raised in a family—that we were winners. I never heard my dad apologize. To lose at an argument meant that you were weak, so I thought I could never do that.
Bob: You were raised in a culture like ancient Rome, because pride was considered a virtue in ancient Rome; humility was considered a weakness.
But the Apostle Paul, in Romans, writes and says, “By the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Dave: Paul’s words were radical in that context.
Bob: They were radical, yes; and they’re radical in the context of marriage.
Bob: I’ll tell you a story. Mary Ann came to me—we’d been dating for a couple of years—and she said: “You know what would be good? We should memorize some Scripture together.”
I said to her, “That’s a great idea!” Now, I was thinking: “Why would you memorize it? I mean, if you need it, it’s in the Bible. You just go look it up. Why do you memorize Scripture?” But I said, “That’s a great idea,” because we’re dating, you know; so you lie to each other when you’re dating like this.
I said, “Did you have any particular verses in mind?” She said, “I was thinking we should memorize like a chapter.”
Bob: I said, “Wow!” I’m thinking: “Are you out of your mind?!—a whole chapter? Who memorizes a chapter in the Bible?” But I said, “Wow,” because we’re dating. [Laughter] I said, “Did you have a chapter in mind?”
She said, “Yes, I did.” She said, “I thought we could memorize Philippians, Chapter 2.”
I nodded, like, “Oh, yes”; and I’m thinking, “Is that Old Testament or New Testament?”—
Ann: “What’s that say?”
Bob: —right? [Laughter] I don’t know the—I’m three verses in, and I read, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility regard one another as more important than yourself.” Then it goes on to say: “Do not look out merely for your own interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed as God did not regard equality with God as something to be clung to.”
Ann: Ooh, look at you! Can you still do the whole chapter?
Bob: No, I can’t do the whole chapter.
Dave: That’s pretty good.
Ann: But those are such good verses.
Bob: I’m convinced—in every marriage, if a husband and wife would apply
Philippians 2:3 and would say, “I’m going to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility I’m going to regard you as more important than me.”
Ann: How long do you think we could get? Do you think we could go years?—days?—hours?
Bob: You know, you can do that on your own strength, if you’re really good, for maybe a week; right? That’s if you’re really good. But you can do that in the power of the Spirit, day in and day out; and when you stumble, you can correct and you can go back.
You asked: “If that’s our default setting, how do we reset?” You go back to the reset/the spiritual reset that God does when He brings new life to us. You go back and say, “That’s how I’m going to live my life. I’m going to live my life—not with arrogance/not with empty conceit—but with humility. I’m going to say, ‘You’re more important than me.’”
If husbands and wives were arguing: “No, you’re more important than me,” “No, you’re more important than me,” how bad would our marriages ever get?
Dave: I mean, I do think one of the first—if not the first thing—Christ does in your life when you surrender fully to Christ is He resets the selfishness. That’s where He starts. It’s like the title of your chapter—Chapter 4: “It’s Not About Me”—it’s where He starts first, because that’s the sin nature; it’s the core. It’s always been about me. It’s like, “No, from now on, it’s not about you; it’s about Me and about others.” You bring that into a marriage; it’s transformative.
Ann: I think you have to reset that button every day, and I think that button starts with first surrendering everything to Jesus. That’s a hard place to go, because our pride gets in the way/our arrogance: “Do I really want Him to have full control?” I think, at least for me, that’s when my life really began to change.
Bob: I think, if you look at most couples who are in conflict/who are in isolation in marriage, you’re going to find arrogance there; you’re going to find pride there. You’re going to find somebody, who’s saying: “I don’t care”; “I deserve this”; “I don’t deserve this.” “I” is the next word when people say, “Why are you dissatisfied with your marriage?”—the next word is “I”—“I’m not getting what I want, expect, or deserve.”
If we can start to say, “Okay, that’s not insignificant”; right?—we’re not trying to say that doesn’t matter—but what we are trying to say is: “Let’s ask the question first, ‘How do we make this a marriage that God rejoices in?’” Because, when you’re in a marriage, where God is rejoicing, you’re going to be rejoicing—
Bob: —right? If you love Jesus, and you’re in a marriage where God is pleased, you’re delighted. Whatever the circumstances, you’re delighted because God is pleased with your marriage. That’s where I think we have to get to.
I have to tell you guys—it’s been encouraging—you know, the book, Love Like You Mean It, has been out for less than a month now; but I’m already hearing back from people, who have gotten copies of this and have written me to say: “We’re thinking differently about love as a result of going through this book. This has deepened our understanding of what our relationship is supposed to look like and be like.”
It’s so encouraging for me, as an author, to get that kind of feedback. Of course, that’s my prayer in writing this book, is that there would be many couples, who would benefit from looking at what the Scriptures have to say about what real love looks like; and then beginning to learn how to make that a part of the fabric of your life. The book we’re talking about is Love Like You Mean It.
If you don’t already have a copy, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order yours; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book is Love Like You Mean It. I know we have a cruise with that same name. The cruise does not come with the book; but I borrowed the name for the book, because that’s what this book is all about: “What’s the right way to love?” Again, order online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Here, at FamilyLife®, our whole reason for being is to help strengthen marriages and families to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe that godly marriages and families can change the world, one home at a time. So every day on this program/the resources we make available—they’re all about bringing you practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and for your family.
Along with the book, Love Like You Mean It, we have a free resource we want to make available to you that’s all about “Taking Your Marriage from Good to Great.” This is all content we’re opening up online—a couple of video courses we’re opening up online—one that will help you understand the differences between men and women; Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn provide that. There’s another one on resolving conflict from the Art of Marriage®. There’s a message from Dr. Juli Slattery about resolving conflict and “What’s the right way to do that so that conflict resolution can be a win-win?” There are messages from Paul David Tripp, and Voddie Baucham, and Gary Chapman; and there are downloadable conversation starters for the two of you to help strengthen the foundation of your relationship. That’s what the “Taking Your Marriage from Good to Great” resource is all about.
As an added incentive to help you get engaged with this content—once you’ve downloaded it, you’re automatically eligible; we’re going to draw one name from everybody who downloads this. Somebody is going to come to FamilyLife® and sit in on a FamilyLife Today recording session, and then have dinner that night with Dave and Ann Wilson. To be eligible, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and sign up for the “Take Your Marriage from Good to Great” downloadable resource. No purchase necessary. The contest ends August 14th; restrictions apply. Official rules can be found at FamilyLife.com/goodcontest.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how important it is for husbands and wives to pursue godliness and righteousness in their own lives and in their marriage; because for love to thrive, you have to be actively working against unrighteousness. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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