I barely celebrate Valentine’s Day. It is not that I do not love my wife or welcome a reason to go into “Lance Romance” mode for her. The reason Valentine’s Day doesn’t appeal to me is that flowers, candy, and cards are poor representations of and fail to capture any sentiment like Godly love.
Valentine’s Day cards are riddled with clichés and cheap attempts at love’s pure sentiment. A card with a picture of a bear that reads “Life without you is un-bear-able” seems hardly worthy of expressing my need for the woman God put in my life. Common clichés and teddy bears are poor representations of godly love.
Here are three common marriage clichés that do more harm than good, along with three biblical principles to replace them. Ditch clichés. Embrace godly passion in marriage!
1. Love means never having to say you are sorry. Seriously? I don’t know where this cliché comes from but it sure doesn’t come from the Bible. The foundation of our love relationship with God is repentance. “Peter replied, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” – Acts 2:38 (NLT)
There is a similar standard at work in our marriages. Prefacing Paul’s section on husbands and wives is Ephesians 5:21, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (NLT) This is standard behavior for all Christians and applies specifically to the Christian home. James 1:19-20 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (NLT)
Life is difficult. Stresses abound. We are going to get angry and we are going to need to forgive one another. That means we’re going to have to say ‘sorry.’ Arguments and fights are a part of our love stories, but they don’t have to destroy us. We need to be willing to cultivate a climate in our marriages in which we can repent and apologize, and in return be responsive to the needs of our spouse to hear us apologize sincerely.
2. “You had me at hello.” No, you didn’t. You may have found me attractive. You may have been interested. However, love at first sight and marriages that never include an argument or serious disagreement are purely the stuff of Valentine’s Day cards and Hollywood chick flicks. Real marriages take work.
In the movie from which this cliché arose, the main character had treated his wife terribly. He had taken her for granted. He had used her. She wasn’t obligated to have him at hello. Showing up isn’t godly love. Showing up repentant and willing to change is more representative of godly love in marriage.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of His wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of His body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. – Ephesians 5:22-26
“You had me at prayerful life change. You had me at your willingness to lay aside your will for God’s will and my best.” Christian marriage is hard work, not a second’s kindness. God rewards the husband and wife who submit to Him and sacrifice for one another. Lasting marriages are made of much more than just showing up.
3. Kiss and make up. I love make-up kisses but see above. While physical intimacy in marriages matters, genuine sacrificial love covers a multitude of sins, not silk sheets. “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:33 (NLT)
Love. Sacrifice. Godly commitment. These are the things that heal in marriage.