There are many attributes essential for success in marriage. There are two, however, that stand above the rest: unconditional love, and forgiveness. Let’s take a close look at what these are.
A few weeks ago my pastor talked about different levels of love. He asked how many in the congregation had heard of agape love. I was both saddened and shocked when only a few hands went up. Agape is a Greek term that means a selfless, unconditional type of love, the kind that God has for humanity. It is the whole meaning of Jesus’ love for us, and the way that Christians should exemplify the love of Christ for others. This kind of love can transform our marriages.
Unconditional love is not based upon feelings, how another person treats us, or what someone can do for us. It is an act of will that says, “I choose to love you the way you are.” It is putting will over feelings. This is love at the highest level. Feeling are important, and sexual love has its place, but agape love must be present in all successful marriages.
Now, let’s talk about forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness can, over time, lead to bitterness and anger. Forgiveness, therefore, must become a regular practice. Did I say, “practice?” Yes, human nature does not always want to forgive. Forgetting may not always be possible, and it may be necessary to get out of a bad, destructive situation or relationship, but a person can choose to forgive. Ephesians 4:26 and 32 says to “…not let the sun go down on your anger…and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In other words, make an effort to not go to bed angry. Deal with a situation quickly. Don’t allow lack of forgiveness to carry over to the next day, and the next. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the one offended so that bitterness does not take root.
Unconditional love and forgiveness are two critical elements to be applied by a couple if they truly want to have a successful marriage, younger and older alike. These two important concepts should be taught in all marriage counseling sessions. Agape love and forgiveness are not only themes throughout the Bible, but were both demonstrated by Jesus on the cross.
Colossians 3:19 reminds husbands to “love your wives and do not be embittered against them.” This can apply to wives, too, but the husband perhaps needs to take the lead.
How could your marriage be better if one or both of you practiced unconditional love and true forgiveness?