by Julie Bruce
Let’s face it…. we’ve all had those moments… maybe days, weeks, or even years….when we felt like our spouse was more our enemy. The reason why is not as important as what the Bible has to say regarding our enemies and how we treat our spouse in these times. First, let’s look at what Jesus said about our enemies.
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Yes…even on the days when your spouse feels more like your enemy than your lover, you still have to love him or her. However, the Bible doesn’t stop there. In Romans 13:10, Paul wrote, “Love works no ill to his neighbor…” So you not only still have to love your spouse, but you also can’t work “ill will” to him or her!
So let’s break these two verses down…
- Love your enemies. Godly love is unconditional. It isn’t about what my spouse does for me or how a “feel” love in a particular moment. Unconditional love put no limits or conditions on the love I have for my spouse. Rather than basing love on what my spouse does, says, or doesn’t do or say, unconditional love says, “I love you no matter what happens.” It means you love them even with their faults and annoying habits. It means you love them even if you feel they do not love you in return. So even in those moments where your spouse feels like your enemy, you make a choice to love him or her anyway.
- Bless them that curse you. That’s really hard to do! Where we live, rush hour traffic is not fun. On one particular day I found myself complaining in my car about all the crazy drivers and actually praying that God will have a policeman just up the road that would pull them over and give them tickets when the Holy Spirit began to convict me and the word “grace” just coming through my mind over and over. I know the few times I’ve been pulled over I sure was hoping the policeman would show me some grace. As I mulled over (and probably pouted too) the concept of extending grace, the Holy Spirit continued to work on my heart and I realized that I had no idea what circumstances those “crazy” drivers were facing. Maybe they were late for work and would lose their job or maybe they were teaching their teen how to drive or maybe they had left home after an argument with their spouse or child or maybe they just received bad news from their doctor. Granted there are some drivers that are just bullies, road hogs, and have no care or concern about the other drivers on the road, but even they (maybe even more so) need some grace. I decided in that moment that whenever I shared the road with a “crazy” I would pray a blessing on them instead. What I found was I ended up at my destination a much happier, more relaxed person. In our marriages there are times when that spouse we married seems to have jumped off some kind of deep end and goes all crazy on us and we are just standing there thinking to ourselves, “Where in the world did that come from?” In that moment we have two choices: We can either take it personally and get our own kind of “crazy” on or we can choose to love unconditionally and pray a blessing on him or her. Just as I had no idea what circumstances those crazy drivers were facing, you may not realize what your spouse had been through that day. Maybe he got chewed out at work for something not his fault. Maybe she dealt with whining children all day. Try praying a blessing…then when things are calmer show your care and concern for both your spouse and marriage by asking him or her if they wish to talk about what happened in that moment.
- Do good to them that hate you. I remember growing up with my mother saying “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Romans 12:20 says: “But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head” What are things you can do for your spouse when it feels like he or she is your enemy?
- Do a chore that he/she hates doing.
- Say, “I love you.”
- Pack his/her lunch.
- Leave a love note in his briefcase or her purse
- Write an encouraging Bible verse and leave it on his/her pillow
- Send her flowers
- Show up to take him/her out for a surprise lunch
Anything act of goodness you can think of will work. It doesn’t take much good for someone to realize they’ve been a real jerk. Go ahead and try doing something good.
- Pray for them… My sweet friend, there is nothing more powerful you can do in a moment when your spouse feels like your enemy than to pray for him or her. Satan wants to divide your marriage. He wants to bring strife and chaos. He is your real enemy and the only way to fight him is in prayer! Maybe your spouse has some real areas in his or her life that is causing problems in your marriage. Pray about those issues. There is no one or nothing that is too far beyond God’s reach. Pray…and don’t give up praying!
- Works no ill will. Remember praying for the police to catch those “crazy” drivers…that was working ill will. “Getting even” would be ill will. He/she says or does something that hurts you and you come right back trying to hurt her/him back…worse they hurt you. That’s working ill will. It’s our natural tendency…self-preservation…it is sin. No where in the Bible will you find Jesus working ill will…not even toward the Roman soldiers that nailed him on a cross to die. Instead, he prays for them and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Remember how the Holy Spirit brought conviction in my heart with the word “grace?” My friend, there will come a time in your marriage where you will hope your spouse will extend some grace to you…so be sure you are extending grace when your spouse might be acting more like an enemy than a lover. Then go back to #4…and pray!
Does it sound impossible to love like this? The only was we are able to love like this, is through the power of Christ dwelling within us. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Christ, then you have not yet experienced God’s love. What you do not have, you can not give to someone else. It is only because he loved you first that you are able to love others. To be able to love your spouse with a Godly, unconditional love, you must first understand and feel how much God loves you. You can’t just talk about love, read about love, or watch a romantic love story on T.V. You have to experience it for yourself before you can give it away to someone else. When you are able to fully understand the unconditional love of God, then you can unconditionally, love your spouse. When you can understand how God loves you completely, you can completely love your spouse. No matter what you do, you cannot make God stop loving you. The same should be true for your spouse. No matter what they do, you should never stop loving them. In order to truly love your spouse, you must first become secure in God’s love: a love that is unselfish, sacrificial, unconditional, and inexhaustible. Only then can you give your spouse a love that is unselfish, sacrificial, unconditional, and inexhaustible.
Think about the love you have with your spouse. Does the love you share reflect the attributes of God’s love? Or have you been selfish, trampling on your spouse with your words and/or your actions. Maybe you have loved other people or things when you should have loved your spouse. If so, then stop now and pray and ask God to give you a love for your spouse that you never had before. Ask Him to forgive you for not loving your spouse like you should. Then, take your spouse in your arms and humbly ask him or her to forgive you. Then work daily to love your spouse with a Godly love that will honor and glorify God as His love is reflected in the love you extend to your spouse.