Love God, or Love Spouse?

A month ago or so I received this question from a college student:

“Do you love God more than you love your wife? If so, how do you do that?”

My assumption is that he was in some sort of relationship, and was wrestling with how to properly align and prioritize his love for his God and his love for his girlfriend. And this is a wrestling match I remember well from the days of my youth. Periodically I peruse old journals I kept in high school and early college, and chief among many of those entries were struggles I was having with “putting God first” when it came to whatever sort of relationship I was in.

Like the above question states, how do we ensure that our love for God is greater (because we are told that it ought be) than our love for all others? Even above the person in our life that we love the most? Or, are we perhaps coming at this all wrong?

Here was my response:

You asked: “Do you love God more than you love your wife? If so, how do you do that?”

Interesting question.
I’ll respond with a question: Why do you assume that the two (loving God and loving a spouse) are mutually exclusive?

Or, to put that differently, it seems that built in to your question is the assumption that there are two different entities (God and spouse) and that the act of loving these two entities are in some way compare-able.

But what if they don’t stand in contrast to each other? What if, instead, they feed off each other?

Meaning, what if every time time I “love” my wife, I am simultaneously loving God?

If God is love (as John teaches us) than might we also say that “Love is God?” And if THAT’S the case, then each time I act towards my wife in a loving way, each time I think towards her with loving thoughts, each day that I choose to continue to honor our vows and cherish and adore her, I am continually (in the very act of loving) also expressing a love for and a love towards God.

Perhaps if we thought of it like this, we would be less inclined to feel guilt and shame at thoughts like: “do I love my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend more than God?” , “does this make me a bad Christian?” , “am I putting this person first in my life, in front of God?”

I think those sorts of negative voices can be dismantled when we re-frame what love is, who God is, and how we actually LOVE GOD when we LOVE PEOPLE… most of all, our spouses.

Or, actually, most of all: our enemies. When we love THEM we are probably loving God the MOST. But that’s a different topic.

If viewed like this then it becomes relatively impossible for us to love anyone more than God, for every time we enact the sacred gift of giving love to someone we are simultaneously loving Love. We are, in a sense, calling forth God through our act of love while also demonstrating our love of and our love towards God.

Earlier today I came across this blog post, where Richard Beck also dialogues with a college student. (you should pause now and go read that… then come back). In it, he wonders if we’ve created a Bait and Switch type of Christianity. And as I read through his post it reminded me of my above correspondence with this college student. Instead of worrying so much about “improving our relationship with God” (as Richard’s conversation went), or about “ensuring we love God more than others” (as my conversation went), would our time and energy be better spent repairing broken relationships, giving of our selves for others, making time in our day for an old friend or family member, showing kindness to strangers, etc.

For when we choose love, we choose God.

Or, as one commenter on Richard’s post said:

The closer you get to God, the closer you get to people

The closer you get to people, the closer you get to God

The more you love God, the more you love people

The more you love people,  the more you love God

4 Responses to “Love God, or Love Spouse?”

  1. cometojesusmoments.com

    A very good post and know that it truly helped me in my relationship! My thought process was that I need to love God above all things, including her. This, in turn, resulted in me not fully loving her the way I wanted to deep down. In a weird way I was saying that my acts of love towards her separated me from God because I wasn’t showing my love for Him during those times.

    Sounds confusing but your comment “For when we choose to love, we choose God” probably saved me, my relationship, and all other acts of love I will express in the future!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    Thank you, this was comforting! I wasn’t really thinking about the way that loving a significant other and our actions in our life are part of loving God (our love for him doesn’t have to all be prayer and worship), so it’s not necessarily bad or putting them above Him. It something to be aware of, but not paranoid about! I also read this article, that discusses having intimacy with God and it is AMAZING. Please please please check it out http://www.thorncrownjournal.com/dougreed/intimacy.html

    Reply
  3. Geoff

    I believe the two do have a mutually exclusive level. You see, marriage is great but it is not forever. We are meat to be chasing that emptiness in our lives, yes… Meant to be trying to fill that void. But the void can only be filled by God and chasing after his glory. That’s all God cares about is his glory and all he wants you to care about is Gods glory. So reframe your mind like this:

    Objective: glorify God. No other objectives present.

    Now notice how “invincible” we become if all that whimsical hope and want has nothing to do with people but everything to do with chasing God:

    Your child dies – don’t be sad! They are in heaven now with a father who loves, cares and cherishes your child more than you ever could. Also, they love, care for and cherish God more than they do you. They are meant to be wit him, they are HIS children, not yours and their purpose is to be with him and glorify him – not to comfort or be with you. They are with you for however long they are with you and God will use them however he pleases to glorify himself, even if that means their death. Do not think God would never do such a thing; he did, after all, let his own son die to magnify his glory. His glory is all that he cares for.

    If your spouse dies – don’t be sad! The man of her dreams is not you – it’s Jesus. And she wants to be with him far more than she could want to be with you. And you want to be wish Jesus more than anyone on earth as well. If Jesus came to me and said “let’s go right now to be together”, I would totally do it. Because that is what’s best for me and that’s what I want the most. That’s what every follower should want.

    Marriage only exists as a representation of what our relationship with Christ is supposed to be like; nothing more. The person you marry isn’t really what’s important – it’s the character you glean and build which you can use to better function in heaven that matters. Marriage is just a means to an end, not the end itself. Don’t be tricked into thinking romance is everything. It isn’t. Marriage does not require that you be in love but it does require you ACT in love. How you feel makes little difference. As a matter of fact, loving someone in marriage who is difficult to love will be a better thing for you in the long run and will make your relationship with God much more valuable as you see how he never left his rebellious wife (the church) no matter how rebellious she was. That’s the point.

    All of your active love should be focused on God, not a woman or man or children. They are not God. God is God. Remember that. The best way to put it is: love others, but be IN LOVE with God and only God. That is who you should be looking forward to with all your expectation. Not a spouse. They are only a conduit. Nothing more.

    Besides, you’re not married to anyone but Christ in heaven anyways.

    Reply

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