Vol. 5, No. 4
~ Page 18 ~
While visiting with a fine Christian couple that lived in a community several miles from my home, they began a conversation about the problems existing in their son's marriage. As I listened, it was easy to detect the deep sadness that filled the hearts of these parents. The father mentioned that he had been concerned for some time since he thought that his son and daughter-in-law had not been trying to improve their relationship. He said, "Love that is not cultivated will soon die." I could not forget that statement from a Christian father who was a farmer by profession. This expression is filled with many pertinent points regarding the necessity of permitting love to mature.
In oriental countries, the custom has been, in times past, for the parents to select their children's future mates. It seems that the couple enters marriage with a nominal amount of love, but with the passing of the years, that affection is cultivated and matures. Whereas, so many of our young folk get married in the heat of passion and their love subsides in a few years. The divorce rate is proof that there is a wholesale failure of so many marriages in this country. There is a need to cultivate marital love. Webster defines the word cultivate as follows: "1. To prepare and use soil, land, etc., for growing crops; till. 2. To break up the surface soil around (plants) in order to destroy weeds, prevent crusting, and preserve moisture ... to improve or develop (plants) by various horticultural techniques. 5. To improve by care, training; or study; refine (to cultivate one's mind). 7. To seek to develop familiarity with; give one's attention to; pursue." Especially in this analogy, attention should be given to definition number two. Certainly, in marriage, there is the constant need to eliminate the negatives that would destroy the proper relationship between the husband and wife. Every effort must be made to keep the marriage from "crusting." Love will become hard if not cultivated. Care must be given in preserving and maturing marital love. This requires wisdom, knowledge and training to develop (cultivate) this love. "The plainest man that can convince a woman that he is really in love with her has done more to make her in love with him than the handsomest man, if he can produce no such conviction. For the love of a woman is a shoot, not a seed. And flourishes most vigorously only when grafted on that love which is rooted in the breast of another" (Colton). Here are some suggestions that will enable marital love to be mature with the passing of the years.
First of all, husbands and wives should learn early in their marriage to give themselves totally to each other. Love is something that must be given away in order to receive it. This is certainly true in the sexual relationship (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-6). Marriage is not a fifty-fifty relationship but the giving of oneself one hundred percent in making it work.
Second, there is the need to be unselfish in marriage. "Love seeketh not her own" (1 Corinthians 13:5). One should seek the other's good and welfare at all times. If one is not careful, selfishness will prevent this from happening. Selfishness is a root sin that contributes to many marital problems.
Third, love should be expressed in words as well as in actions. A gift is good but is no substitute for the beautiful words, "I love you." Love's characteristics such as patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, guilelessness and sincerity will be found in a good marriage (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Four, learn never to hold a grudge. When a teakettle cannot release the steam, trouble is about to happen. Partners should not harbor resentments. Paul wrote, "Be ye angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Sure, there will be disagreements, but how beautiful it is when there is forgiveness and reconciliation. When one has been wrong, there is the need to learn to say, "I am sorry." And, the response should be, "I forgive you."
Fifth, couples should avail themselves of good literature based on biblical principles that will aid them in settling problems and informing them of positive ways by which they can improve their marriage. There might also come the time when someone else should be consulted. That person might be a professional counselor, an elder, a preacher or a good friend. The institution of marriage is so precious in the eyes of God that every effort should be made to save this relationship.
In closing, the point should be emphasized that when two people truly love the Lord, their love for each other will become stronger. Because as the husband and the wife draw nearer to God, they will be drawn nearer to one another. This result is inevitable. Many other suggestions could be made that would strengthen the marriage bond but these will have to be sufficient for the present time.
I have conducted many funeral services of a departed saint who had been married to the love of his/her life for over 50 years. How wonderful that two people could learn to live together for such a lengthy time. The couple had cultivated their love over the years until death separated them. They had fulfilled God's design for marriage. "So that they are no more two but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:9). Or, as we have couples to repeat in their wedding ceremony the statement, "Until death do us part."