God says, “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them.” Let’s just be honest here. Sometimes in marriage, it can feel like you’re on opposite sides. But because we’re Christians, we have the Lord of the universe living in us. He says, “Bless and do not curse.”


Back on episode one of this podcast, we mentioned something that we called “Tools for unity.” We’ve already covered three of them in previous episodes. 

In episode two, we talked about your individual relationships with God as spouses.

In episode three, we talked about communication just on a real broad and general level.

And then on episode four, we talked about the vital nature of humility and how humility is going to help you build unity in your marriage.

Today, we want to address the last one that we mentioned in episode one, which is SACRIFICIAL LOVE.

Sacrificial love in marriage

We all love the idea of being in love. It’s a wonderful word. I think that’s why Hallmark movies exist. That’s why romance novels exist. But before we get lost in the weeds thinking about that kind of stuff, we really need to start this conversation with a clear biblical definition of love. 

It’s good to have our terms clear when we begin talking about important things, and the definition of love is one of those vitally im \portant things.

The Bible says that not only is GOD love, there’s also no greater demonstration of love than what God Himself has done.

ROMANS 5:8 – God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

A quick paraphrase of that is, “If you want to know for sure that God loves you, and HOW He loves you, just look at the cross where Jesus died. You’re going to see God’s demonstration of love right there. He gave his only Son. Here’s another passage that makes the same point in a different way… and this is Jesus speaking…

JOHN 15:12-13 – This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 

There’s this critical component of love that is a giving, sacrificial component. It can’t truly be called “love” if it’s not at least WILLING to sacrifice for the beloved.

So when we think about loving our spouse, we need to take a serious look at what Jesus says here… Jesus, our Savior, has given us a commandment. He says we are to love each other in the same way that He has loved us. What is it to love others as He has loved us? That’s a vitally important question because if we don’t know how He’s loved us, we won’t know how to love our spouse properly.

In this passage, verse 13 tells us how He’s loved us; by laying down His life for his friends. So, a good way to think about loving your spouse is this: “I’m going to lay down my life for my spouse daily.”

That sounds kind of intimidating. But it doesn’t need to be. The King of the Universe (Jesus) has promised to live in and through us to love as He has loved us – through us. It’s amazing to consider that possibility. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look a bit more deeply into what Jesus’ kind of love looks like…

1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-7 – Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

If we take a moment to look at all the descriptions that Paul gives of love in this passage, we’ll see that there’s nothing here that could be interpreted as it being about the person who’s loving. It’s all about the one being loved. It’s all outward focused.

And before we get into that topic, let me just set the context of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 for you. This passage is bookended by chapter 12 and chapter 14, naturally, which both deal with a conflict that was happening in the Corinthian church. There was this arguing going on about what gifts were important and whose gifts were greater, and there was dissension going on. And Paul, right here in chapter 13, points out the most important thing, more important than all the ver good spiritual gifts that God had given them, is that they learn to love each other. 

And so this idea of love that we just read should not be this sentimental kind of touchy feely kind of love. This is “rubber meets the road” kind of love. This is the kind of love that deals with conflict and deals with tension, which we have plenty of in marriage, don’t we? So again, to reiterate the main point of this passage, love is not about you. It’s about the person you’re loving. 

Another good way to think about it is to recognize that loving someone means you are pursuing them, you are initiating with them, you are serving them. So if you’re not thinking about “How I can serve my spouse? How I can love them better?” — and you’re instead thinking “What are they gonna do for me? When is it my turn?” — you’re missing the heart of what love is. 

Those “wrong” repsponses are actually very normal. Out of our own insecurities and our own need for love, we often that way. But may I remind you, we’re Christians, we have the Spirit of God in us. So we are commissioned, commanded, and even empowered by God to do things differently.

Love is not about us, it’s about the other person.

Another thought by way of example: God pursued us. He loved us first. He initiated with us. So, husband don’t come home from work wondering, “What does my wife have in store for me this evening? What good meal does she have? I’m gonna sit down and rest on the couch. I’m so tired from work.” The husband should be coming home saying, “How can I love my wife this evening? I wonder what her day was like? I bet she’s tired from caring for the kids. I’m gonna go home, put my things down, and I’m gonna sit at the counter and ask how her day was while she’s getting dinner ready.”

That’s an example of initiating with your spouse, pursuing your spouse.

And flip that coin over. The wife should not be thinking, “Oh, I’ve had it with these kids. I can’t wait till my husband gets home. He’s going to have all the kids.” Both spouses need to be thinking of the other becuase love is an other centered thing.

So the question really comes down to, how do we pull this off practically?

We have to start with a mindset, and that mindset is understanding and then believing that Jesus Christ, who lives in us, can love in this way. He’s already demonstrated that at the cross. He continues to demonstrate it by putting up with the likes of us every day. He’s very patient. He’s very long-suffering in His love. And He lives in us. So He can do it.

Let that settle on you for a moment. You aren’t responsible to muster up the motivation and energy to love your spouse as you should… because you CAN’T love in that way. You’re not capable of it on your own. That’s exactly WHY Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit when we become a beleiver. He truly wants to live in us and live THROUGH us — to love our spouse and thousands of other things throughout the course of our lives.

As we believe this fundamental truth of Christianity, then we have to step out in faith and start acting as if He’s going to love through us, because He IS going to love through us. That’s the basic nature OF faith…

  • God tells us what is true (Jesus wants to express His life through us, via the Holy Spirit)
  • We choose to believe it (We call this faith… but it’s not QUITE all the way there…yet)
  • And we believe it enough to ACT on what He’s told us (THAT is what true faith looks like – James 2:18-26)

A deeper look at biblical love

We could have picked many passages from the New Testament to illustrate this kind of love… there are passages about love throughout. But we chose Romans chapter 12:9-200 because it has so many expressions and descriptions that are relevant to marriage. If we take the timeto walk through that verse by verse and just kind of unpack how could this look in marriage, which we’re going to do in this episode, we’re going to see that the sacrificial love that we’re talking about is such a powerful and life-changing thing for marriage partners.

ROMANS 12:9 – Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.

So genuine love. This means a real love, not fake love. You know, we think of genuine leather, it’s the real thing.

So what he’s describing here is that when Jesus Christ is living through us in an attitude of love, it’s going to be the real thing. It’s not going to be fake. It’s not going to be obligatory. It’s going to be the real thing, really concerned about the other person.

9b – “Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”

I know there are certain things that I tend toward in my behavior and in my attitudes relating to my spouse that aren’t healthy… and they’re not healthy because they’re a sin pattern that I have developed over the years, a selfishness that’s ingrained in me for various reasons. Anyone reading this has their own version of what I’m describing. We can legitimately call those sinful habits, evil. Those are things that are going to bring evil into our marriage if we allow them to be manifested. And so we need to abhor those things.

And that’s a strong word.

We need to hate the sin that we’re bringing into the marriage. So take a look at yourself, at the habitual behaviors that cause pain or tension in your relationships. Ask jesus to empower you to abhor what you’re bringing into the marriage by way of sin.

And don’t overlook this fact: The enemy is going to tempt you, husband or wife, in many different ways, ways that don’t necessarily originate inside you, but from the outside. Mindi described that there have been times when she’s gotten attention from other men, and for a short second, it made her feel encouraged, it made her feel good. But she hated that good feeling because she knew it was destructive and not true love toward her husband. She would even tell me (Carey) about situations like that, because she didn’t want it to go anywhere, she didn’t want the enemy to plant any seeds in her heart, because she wanted to cling to what is good.

And that might happen for the husband or the wife in one way or another, especially if the husband or the wife is not feeling well loved by their spouse and they get special attention from someone of the opposite sex. The enemy is feeding them lies, telling them, “Doesn’t that feel good? Don’t you want to be encouraged by another woman? Because your wife doesn’t encourage you much at home.” But Christians, we need to have a hatred for that evil and have a mindset of clinging to what is good. What is good is staying faithful to your husband or your wife. No matter what your marriage is like, the good is to stay faithful because God commands us to stay faithful.

Those outside attacks can be completely unrelated to your relationship, too.

You might be drawsn toward partying with your buddies after work, or doing things that are going to tear away at the fabric of your relationship, because it’s taking the place of time you should be spending with your spouse. So abhorring what is evil means anything that’s coming against God’s good purpose in your marriage. That’s what you should be thinking of. Holding fast to what is good.

And what is good? You took vows before the Lord in a covenant of marriage. It is a holy covenant. That is as good as it gets, folks. We need to, regardless of any difficulty we might experience in our marriage, recognize that God’s given us a big blessing. And that is something good to be held onto.

And remember, we’re talking about love as sacrifice. Sometimes clinging to what is good is going to be sacrificial because things aren’t very peaceful between you and your spouse at the moment. But if you’re clinging to what is good, if you’re clinging to obedience, then God is going to honor that and you’re going to find that He will bless your marriage because you’re obeying him.

ROMANS 12:10 – Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

This is really interesting because obviously, Paul is writing this to Christians in general, not specifically to married couples. But because we’re Christians first, married partners second, we can apply these to our marriage because we are Christians responsible to do these things. So we need to think about what it looks like to be loving our spouse with brotherly affection.

That word “brotherly” is talking about a familial sort of a relationship and a familial devotion and commitment. We have a greater commitment to our family members than we do to other people, even though we do (or should) love the other people and we care about the other people. There’s a greater commitment we’ve been given and it’s to our family members.

With marriage, it’s even more so. A husband and wife should have a greater commitment to each other than they do to their kids. It might sound strange to you, but that’s true because it’s the foundational relationship of the home.

10b – “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

This is not talking about a competition where you will win a prize if you do better than your spouse. It’s more the mentality of, “I’m going to continue to show my spouse honor and care and love, and I’m not going to wait for the scales to be balanced. I’m not going to wait.”

So get that clear. This is not an attitude that says, “I gave to them five times the other day. I’m going to wait for them to give to me five times and then when it evens out, I’ll be ready to give some more.” It’s not that kind of a thing at all.  

This is a very subtle attitude. There’s none of us who would say, “Well, yeah, I wait for their five and then I do my five.” We don’t look at it that granular;ly, yet sometimes we do that in our hearts. It’s like, “I give and give and give and give, and when is he ever going to give?” We”ve got to be aware of that attitude because we are to be focused on doing the maximum we can do to honor our spouse and to love our spouse. That’s really what this verse is talking about.

We should not ever say to ourselves or especially our spouse, “When is it ever going to be my turn? I‘m always helping you with your problems, wife. I’m always helping you with your problems, husband. You seem to be the one that has all the needs. When is it going to be my turn?” You should never say that.

If you want to pray about it before the Lord, do that, sure. Because God is the one who’s going to fix that problem. But that would be very damaging to say to your spouse. When you have that attitude, the foundation you’re building on is selfish. It’s not coming from a godly, wise, sacrificial heart. You’re not trusting the Lord to have it be your turn when it needs to be your turn. And you’re not focusing on your spouse who has the needs. With love being sacrificial, many times you’re going to feel like you are caring for your spouse and your needs are never getting met.

But God wants to tell you, “Don’t worry, I will take care of you, your needs will be met, but do what I’m calling you to do in obedience, in loving your spouse.” 

There’s so much of this that just ties into basic, vanilla faith.

We’re just trusting God to take care of us as we do what He’s told us to do. That really is the Christian life in simple form, if you think about it. It’s trusting God as you do your part to be obedient. 

ROMANS 12:11 – Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 

 Zeal means enthusiasm. It means your desire to do well at this. Our zeal for the Lord, our desire to live for Him and obey Him and all that, should translate into our love for our spouse. We should be motivated to have the best marriage. We should be zealous to have the best marriage. We should be zealous to be the best wife or the best husband.

And we don’t mean “best” compared to other people. We simply mean the best it can be. The best that God has for us, not settling and not looking at what you see going on around you with your friends, family, people in your church, and let hopelessness set in. Push that away and say, “No, I’m going to fight to have the best because I know God can do that through me and through my husband or my wife. 

Another way this applies is that when the scripture gives us marriage-specific instructions, we as husband, we as wife need to be zealous in performing those instructions. We need to do everything we can to understand it. We need to do studies on those sections of the Bible. We need to make sure we’ve got our job description down. And then we’ve got to be diligent.

So husbands, when Ephesians 5 tells you to love your wife as Christ loves the church, man, we better figure that out and start doing that. Wives, when it tells you to respect your husband, well, get in the scripture, figure out what that means and be zealous about doing that. You see, as we’re each doing our part, the marriage has an opportunity to thrive. But when we’re neglecting or being slothful in our zeal, the things we’re supposed to be doing aren’t getting done.

And being fervent in spirit, that means that we should be dependent on the Holy Spirit to live through us to do this. You can’t do any of what we’re talking about without the Holy Spirit living through you. As you’re obedient, then you’re serving the Lord, and that is delighting the Lord, and He is going to honor you. 

And remember, we’re talking about self-sacrifice here. Love is sacrificial. And so, don’t hear us saying any of this is going to be easy. Don’t hear us saying that zealously sticking to your responsibilities as husband or wife is going to be simple. It’s not. It’s going to take self-sacrifice. It’s going to take truly sacrificial love.

ROMANS 12:12 – Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

“Rejoice in hope,” that’s so important because we need hope, don’t we? When a bride and groom, are saying their wedding vows, they are very hopeful. They have all kinds of hopes and dreams in that moment.  They’re starting out their marriage in hope, and in rejoicing. God wants us to keep that vision of hope set before us all the time, because He knows He’s going to do that work in us. 

And our hope is in Him and who He is, His character, His goodness, His desire to use us as part of His Kingdom work as a couple. There’s just so much need for hope. 

And the reason that we’re making a big point about this is because marriage is a context and an environment in which hope can diminish rapidly.

When you start having difficulties and the things you were so hopeful about are not coming about, you can get discouraged. You can get disillusioned. You can wonder if you made a mistake. It’s in those moments that we’ve got to rejoice in hope, rejoice in the fact that God is a God of hope. He put us in this marriage for our good and for His glory. And we’re going to persevere because we want to find that hope.

And as hopeful as the wedding day is, we know that tribulation’s going to come, and what does He say to us about that? He says we are to be patient in that tribulation. We can be patient if we’re confident that God is working in that tribulation. So when the tribulation comes, we need to trust Him to work because we’re asking Him to work. We’re constantly praying about it.

We can’t emphasize enough how important prayer is in marriage. individually as spouses, but also together, seeking the God of heaven and earth to help you. Don’t we want God to help us? Think of it, the most powerful being in the universe, helping you with some of your hardest issues and tribulations. Why would we not be praying?

It can be another form of loving sacrifice for us to have to pray all the time. But we need to do it. It’s an expression of love toward your spouse to be making the time to diligently pray together. 

ROMANS 12:13 – Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. and do not curse.

We should probably start here by just acknowledging both you and your spouse, because your believers in Christ, are considered saints. It’s not some dead person who the church decided should be a saint. The Bible says everyone who believes in Christ is a saint. So we are to contribute to the needs of the saints. That means that your spouse’s needs are something you should put the crosshairs on, and say, “I’m going to go after that. I’m going to meet that need. I’m going to minister to them in that way.” And those needs can manifest in many different ways. It could be insecurities they have, it could be fears they have, it could be areas of need for love that only you can give. You should put a bull’s eye on those and go after those. That’s your responsibility.

Also physical needs. If you have a lot of children at home and your wife is not able to get things cleaned up around the house efficiently all the time because she’s got a lot of little ones underfoot, help her with those needs. Do the dishes after dinner. Help clean up. Whatever the Lord leads you to do, do it, even though it might be a sacrifice to do it.

This verse also says we are to show hospitality. Now, we think of that word mainly in like the hospitality industry — restaurants, hotels, that kind of thing. But what is the root of that word? The idea is it’s a generous spirit. It’s wanting to bless people. It’s wanting to make an environment where people feel at home and comfortable. That’s what hospitality is. So how does that look in marriage? Well, we want our spouse to feel at home with us. We want them to feel welcomed by us. We want them to feel like we are open toward them and generously giving of ourselves toward them.

ROMANS 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them. 

Let’s just be honest here. Sometimes in marriage, you’ll hit a patch where you feel you’ve been at odds for a while, or you’ve had tensions over the same thing over and over. In those seasons it can feel like you’re on opposite sides, like you are enemies. That could feel like a persecutor or someone who’s not on the same team. And what do we tend to do as human beings when that happens? We tend to dig our foxhole. We get our defenses up. We’re going to defend ourselves and our position. 

But because we’re Christians, we have the Lord of the universe living in us, He gives us different instructions. He says, “Bless and do not curse.” So in other words, don’t respond as your flesh would have you respond or in one of those evil, sinful ways. Be ready to bless even when you feel you’re at odds with each other.

Let’s say you are being mistreated, feeling persecuted, feeling hurt by your spouse. If you turn around and curse them, then you’re adding a wrong to their wrong. So now you have two wrongs.

If you decide that you’re just tired of it and you don’t want to serve your spouse or kids anymore, well, there’s another wrong.

And then your attitude grows toward bitterness and there’s another wrong.

And then you’re mistreating your kids because you’re angry at your spouse, who’s been hurting you. Well, there’s another wrong.

So wrongs will compound and it will be a snowball effect, to where the snowball will get so big it will crush you and destroy your marriage.

God is wanting you to turn toward your spouse with sacrificial love, because He already has a plan to help with those areas of wrong. So you responding in wrongful ways and adding your sin to their sin, you’re basically saying, “I don’t trust God. He can’t fix this, so I’m going to take into my own hands. I’m just going to retaliate.” And then it makes a mess. And many times that kind of a mindset, that kind of a marriage ends in divorce.

This is a tremendously countercultural attitude, to bless instead of cursing. But again, going back to our model, our example of sacrificial love from the very beginning, Jesus Christ came to this earth who wasn’t looking for Him, who didn’t deserve Him, who didn’t want Him. And He knew we needed Him anyway, and so He came. Self-sacrificing love is about the other person.

It’s not about the offense. Jesus was offended more than anybody, and yet He hung on a cross for us. So our bar is very high here, but again, He lives in us to pull this off through us. And so as we adopt His attitude and say, “I’m going to commit to living this countercultural way,” He will come online and He will do some amazing things.

ROMANS 13:15 – Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, live in harmony with one another, do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

When your spouse is excited about something, happy about something, enthused about some future dream, your response should be to rejoice with them. You may not agree on every detail. You may not think it’s a realistic thing, But that’s not always the moment to say it. There’s nothing more discouraging than when you are feeling excited about something and your spouse comes back with practical explanation or a negative perspective. Their perspective might be good. It might even be true. But first of all, the spouse should be having the mindset of, “Let me encourage them with where they’re at right now.” You know, “Wow, that does sound like a great idea. I love how you you’re thinking about the kids with that idea.”

And then say the husband knows that some practical things need to be talked about. Don’t be concerned. You will talk about those and you’ll bring your wife around to see what you think God is wanting you to tell her, but don’t squash her right away by saying “No, that’s a terrible idea. We can’t do that because of here’s all these reasons.” Just rejoice in the fact that she is excited because she wants to do something loving for the kids. 

When we can rejoice with with someone who’s rejoicing, we’re actually giving them a gift. We’re sharing in their joy. We’re sharing in their excitement. Isn’t a joyful experience better when you experience it with someone else? That’s really what Paul’s telling us here. 

Maybe your husband comes home and he tells he was promoted, or maybe how his boss gave him a compliment or a bonus or something like that. You as a wife need to make sure you’re rejoicing with him and encouraging him in what the great work he’s doing.

And then the other side of this is “weep with those who weep.”

So when one or the other of the spouses is down about something, whether it’s grounded in reality or not, whether it’s just emotions blown out proportion or not, the first instinct should be, “I want to care for them in this moment of sadness. I’m sad that they’re sad, and I want to step in and be a part of it with them to bring comfort just by being there with them.”

That communicates that you value them even when they’re down. You’re for them even when they’re sad. They don’t have to perform perfectly for you to pay them off with love. You’re there all the time giving sacrificially.

ROMANS 13:16 – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own eyes.

Harmony means being at peace. It’s not allowing those irritations and rathers that you have to bring a dissension or a negativity between you. Harmony is a musical term. You have the melody playing and the harmony playing along with it. It’s just this beautiful mesh of sound that fits. And the opposite of that is dissonance when it’s in a different key or somebody’s off key and it’s kind of grating on even people who aren’t musicians they just know something’s not right.

That happens in our marriages when we allow irritation and frustration and things like that to worm their way into an interaction. 

The second part – “Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly” tells us that when there’s pride in your relationship, there’s not going to be harmony. Like we talked about in the previous episodes, humility is huge. If you’re not striving to be humble before the Lord and with your spouse, you’re not going to have much peace in your relationship.

All this leads right into the last part of verse 16 where it says…

16b – never be wise in your own eyes.

That’s not saying God won’t give you wisdom at times, and that it’s wrong to acknowledge it. What it’s saying is you shouldn’t have the attitude of arrogance or pride that makes you think, “I know what’s best. I always know what’s right. They should listen to me, I’m the one to direct this thing.” Men, even if you are called to be the leader of home it doesn’t mean you always have the best ideas. It is not default standard equipment with leadership that you have the great ideas. 

You have to stay in that place of humility.

As a spouse, you’re wanting to seek God’s wisdom. There might be a time when you are truly believing that God has told you something in a scenario of a discussion that you’re having with your spouse, and you think that what your perspective iss God’s wisdom, and their perspective is not. Patiently talk it through. You don’t demand, no, I know what’s right, God told me this, in this verse that I read this morning.

You need to seek to understand one another and be patient in working it through and trust that the Lord is going to bring your spouse to see the same thing that He showed you. I think a general thing to just keep in mind is truth will triumph. You don’t have to push. You don’t have to cajole. You don’t have to manipulate. You can patiently speak the truth, listen to the other person, interact about it.

The truth will triumph in time. 


So friends, on this episode, our assignment for you is real simple.

It’s a memorization activity. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that we went through early in the podcast, and write those down in your favorite Bible version and memorize them. Get that description of love into your mind by memorizing what love looks like so that you’ll be able to more readily say in an evaluation sort of way, is my behavior toward my spouse being loving in this thing that I’m doing?


LISTEN SEPARATELY then set a weekly appointment to discuss what you’ve heard, pray about what God may want YOU to adjust or implement, then plan how you will do so.

LISTEN TOGETHER: Set a standing weekly date to listen together, pray over what you’ve heard, discuss, and strategize how to implement relevant things into your relationship.

DO THE HOMEWORK: The more you invest, the more you’ll grow and experience God’s blessings!