Does the love you have for each other bring joy and encouragement to both of you?
The book of Philemon is a letter that Paul wrote to a wealthy person named Philemon. While Paul was in Ephesus, Philemon heard Paul preach and became a Christian. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who stole something of Philemon’s and ran away. He too heard Paul preached and became a Christian and then was a great help to Paul while Paul was imprisoned. The letter to Philemon was to encourage him to forgive Onesimus and receive him back not merely as a bondservant but as a “beloved brother.” Paul opens the letter telling Philemon about the joy and encouragement he brought to Paul even while Paul was in prison.
There are two key themes to the book: reconciliation and the Christian virtue of love. Paul both praises Philemon for the love he has shown to Paul and all the believers in his area, and he facilitates reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul informs Philemon that Onesimus has been reconciled to God and his hope is that he will also be reconciled with a fellow believer.
While the story of Philemon and Onesimus can teach us much about reconciliation, I want to focus on verse 7 in Chapter 1 because there is an important lesson about love in this verse that we can apply to how we love our spouses.
How can we apply this to Christian marriage?
There is great joy in Christ-like love
Recently, we celebrated the marriage of my nephew and his bride. They were supposed to have been married back in April. However, my nephew is in the Air Force and stationed overseas. Because of COVID, the military issued “stop movement orders” and my nephew couldn’t get home. He finally got his leave approved, but he couldn’t come to the state where we live. His leaves was granted for the state just North of us. So, we went an hour north and we got those two kids married. There were hoops to jump through every time they turned around, but the look on his face as his bride entered the church made all that hoop-jumping worth it! There was great joy all over his face in that moment.
Christ-like love begins by recognizing Christ’s love for me
But for those of us who have been married for a while, we know that there comes times when marriage isn’t quite so joyful. There will be times where we hurt one another or make our spouse angry. But Christ-like love will love anyway. When I think about my own life, my sin, the times I’ve let Christ down, it amazes me that He loved me enough to endure the cross for me. But that’s is exactly how much Jesus loves me. He died for me and forgave me of my sin.
Love after the honeymoon
In the original wedding plans for my nephew he was going to have leave for a few weeks and be home a few days before the wedding and spend time with family then take his bride on an extended cruise for a honeymoon. What the military approved was only one week of leave. He was married on Saturday and left the following Thursday to return to duty while his bride remains here until all the paperwork is completed for her to join him there (which can’t be done until after they were officially married). So not only was the wedding plans quickly altered, but so was the honeymoon plans.
We all start out in the honeymoon phase where everything is “happily ever after.” But sooner or later the rose colored lenses fall off and we begin to see each other for who we really are. No matter how perfect your Mr. Right or Mrs. Wonderful is – we all have faults and flaws. And there is nothing like living together to bring them into the light! However, when we have Christ-like love for one another, we can experience joy in marriage. If you don’t feel very joyful, then consider if your love for your spouse is a Christ-like love.
No matter how perfect your Mr. Right or Mrs. Wonderful is, we all have faults & flaws. And living together to will bring them into the light! But when we have Christ-like love for one another, we can experience joy in marriage.Tweet
There is encouragement in Christ-like love
Both Onesimus and Philemon had been encouraging to Paul while he was imprisoned. As we do life together, there comes times of difficulty where we need to encourage and build each other up. Maybe its when a promotion doesn’t come through or when you feel God is answering a prayer. Maybe its when you long to begin a family, but the pregnancy doesn’t happen. Or perhaps it just when one of you have had a hard day. Whatever life throws at you, you should be each other’s greatest cheerleaders and encourage one another.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” In Hebrews 10, he said, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” And in 1 Peter 8-10, Paul taught, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
When you’re in the tough.
Life is tough. But one of the gifts about marriage is having someone to do life with so that we don’t have to go through the tough alone.Tweet
Life is tough. But one of the gifts about marriage is having someone to do life with so that we don’t have to go through the tough alone. When I think about how Christ loves me, I’m aware that when I go through the tough, Christ is with me – He sees and He knows.
So if I have a Christ-like love for my spouse than I take the time to see and know when he is in the tough. I don’t just stand up on the solid ground and say, “Hey! I see you down there in the tough! You doing ok?” Rather, like Christ, I jump down into the tough with him and I help see him through it. I pray for him and I ask what I can do to help him. I look for ways to make life a little easier for him while he’s in the tough. And I cheer him on. Or sometimes I just sit in the tough with him and hold his hand until we get through it together.
When I think about how Christ loves me, I’m aware that when I go through the tough, Christ is with me – He sees and He knows. So if I have a Christ-like love for my spouse than I take the time to see and know when he is in the tough.Tweet
Bringing joy and encouragement back into love
Take some time to ask yourself the following questions: How much joy is there in my marriage? Do I encourage my spouse when he/she needs it? In what ways to do refresh his/her heart? Do you recognize when your spouse is in the tough or are you so caught up in your own difficulties that you can’t see his or hers? When your spouse is feeling down, what do you do to encourage them?
Bringing joy and encouragement back into love is possible. But it requires a Christ-like love that is unselfish and unending. It requires a Christ-like love that is willing to forgive and reconcile. And it requires a Christ-like love that builds one another up. Find a way to be an encouragement to your spouse today or a way to bring them an unexpected joy.
Based out of Day 232 of the book, “God, Love, and Marshmallow Wars”
by Julia M. Bruce
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
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