There is no end to the websites, TikTok shorts, tweets, YouTube videos, blogs, and podcasts about love and relationships. With thousands of these voices offering advice of varying quality, it can get confusing and disheartening for the person who’s trying to understand how to love others well, especially their spouse. This is why we need to study Bible verses about love and marriage.
One of the issues we face is that we use the word love to describe our relationship to vastly different things and the word becomes virtually useless. We can love baseball, love the new shoes we bought, love pizza, love our dog, love the new gizmo we just bought that makes life easier, and love our families.
The other challenge is that when we turn to the Bible to understand God’s love for us, we bring our daily use of the word into the conversation, which waters down what God is trying to say to us.
Love and marriage in the Bible
The Bible uses different words to talk about love in both Hebrew and Greek, the original languages in which the Bible was written. In Greek, for example, there are several ways of describing different types of love: agape, eros, philia, and storge.
Storge is a bond forged from empathy and instinct, such as the affection a parent has for their child. Philia describes the bond of friendship, and eros is romantic love. Agape refers to unconditional love like that which God demonstrates to us consistently.
Instead of falling back on the same word to describe different things as we do in English, Paul and the other Biblical writers had a range of words to choose from to convey their meaning.
When the Bible talks about the love God has for us, and the love we ought to demonstrate toward each other, it often refers to the agape type of love. That love has deep feeling attached to it, but it is more about the actions of God than feelings. In the Bible, love is about actions more than it is about feelings.
Bible verses about love and marriage
Married couples are to have the eros kind of love toward one another, and only each other. From Proverbs 5: 15-20 we read:
Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? – Proverbs 5:15-20, NIV
The entire book of Song of Songs is a celebration of eros, a romantic love that is beautifully constrained within the confines of marriage. This is what God intended when He made Adam and Eve into one flesh. They were naked with each other but felt no shame (Genesis 2:24-25).
A married couple is meant to enjoy emotional and sexual intimacy, and they ought to guard and nurture that intimacy, as the passage in Proverbs 5 says.
One of the most quoted passages of the Bible that you’ll typically hear at a wedding is 1 Corinthians 13, a beautiful passage that isn’t about weddings and marriage. The passage was written to address a dysfunctional church riddled with factions and deep self-interest. However, that passage can still be read and used by married couples as they consider their relationship:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV
In a sermon titled “Love is Not a Black Hole,” Tim Mackie explains this passage by saying that black holes draw everything into themselves and their orbit, breaking it down as they do so. Black holes do not produce life but instead stifle it. The opposite of that is the agape love that Jesus and the rest of the Bible tell us about.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is talking about this love that reflects the love that Jesus expressed for us by dying for us. It is the kind of love that ought to govern our relations with one another. This kind of love brings life and flourishing.
In love and marriage, the couple can act like relational black holes toward one another by looking out for their own interests and placing their own needs above those of their spouse. The love that Paul writes about here is the love that Jesus demonstrated toward us, and the kind of love that we ought to demonstrate toward others.
In another of his letters, Paul talks about how marriage symbolizes Jesus’ relationship with His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The way we relate to each other in our marriages ought to reflect how Jesus relates to His Body, the Church, and that is a high calling.
Christian love, the agape kind of love, has certain qualities that Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 13, and they are as follows. That kind of love is:
Patient. This means having time set aside for others that they want or need. When we are impatient, we are essentially saying that our time and schedule can’t accommodate the needs of others.
Kind. We create a welcoming and hospitable atmosphere that allows others to feel at home around us.
Does not envy. The first of the negative expressions of what love isn’t, this is saying that love can genuinely celebrate the good in the lives of others.
Does not boast, is not proud. One is not puffed up with a sense of their self-importance, not full of yourself to the point that others become mere footnotes in our story. In other words, it’s about not centering oneself and placing others on the periphery of our existence.
Does not dishonor others. This means being rude toward others and treating them as though they are not worthy of our attention and time. Love treats others as worthy of honor and respect.
Is not self-seeking. Not looking out for your own interests consistently over the interests of others.
Is not easily angered. Our anger indicates what’s important to us and getting angry easily can flow from being so self-focused causing things that interrupt to trigger an angry response.
Keeps no record of wrongs. Bruised egos struggle to relinquish their entitlement to fairness, and a deep self-focus will typically result in rehashing all the ways people have wronged someone. Forgiving others is one of the ways to love them.
Does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Harboring anger, boasting, envy, and dishonor of others are all evils that one can delight in, even though we might profess we don’t celebrate evil. Instead, love rejoices in what is true, even if what is true is my selfishness being exposed.
Always protects. This type of protection is treating people with care, seeking what is best for them in all circumstances, and protecting someone from another who desires to inflict harm.
Always trusts. Believing that Jesus can and is doing something in their life is the foundation of trust. This is not the same as being gullible, but it’s about thinking the best of others and not the worst.
Always hopes. Love looks forward and seeks growth in others. It hopes for the best and for Jesus to be at work in them, even for the people who may have hurt you.
Always perseveres. Perseverance persists lovingly even under challenging circumstances and disappointment.
It never fails. It doesn’t falter or run out, even when things aren’t going great.
Counseling to help us love others well
Love as the Bible expresses it is quite challenging, if not downright impossible. You will falter, but honoring God and your marriage requires you to press on despite the hardships and setbacks.
Only Jesus was able to love others perfectly, and He gave you His Holy Spirit to enable you to grow in your love for others. You might not be perfect, but you can mature and grow in your love for others, especially your spouse.
Your marriage may be in a great place right now, or perhaps you’re finding it hard to love your spouse. There may be issues in your marriage with past hurts, unfruitful communication, obstacles toward intimacy, or struggles with trust and seeing a future for your relationship. Marriage can be hard, but you don’t have to work through your issues by yourselves.
Licensed family and marriage therapists understand how marriages work, and how they can get stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought and behavior. Your therapist can work with you to understand your unique story and places of pain. They can unpack the dynamics of your relationship to help you build a stronger, more loving marriage that honors God and one another.
You don’t have to face your marital challenges alone; seek help to learn how to love one another better. Contact our office to begin today.
“Bible and Breakfast”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “God-Centered Marriage”, Courtesy of Naassom Azevedo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading Together”, Courtesy of Cassidy Rowell, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading the Bible Together”, Courtesy of J. Balla Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License