The Habit Of Love
© 09.23.2015 By D. Eric Williams
I closed yesterday's article with the challenge to "start breaking and replacing a sinful habit this week." Some of you might have been perplexed about how to do that, so today I'm going to put the "practical" in practical theology.
Let's say you've concluded that you need to develop habits of love toward your wife. Sure, you say you love your wife and even occasionally bring her flowers or take her to a movie. Nonetheless, you've come to realize that your love for her is mostly emotional, about sexual gratification and having someone to cook your meals (okay, you're probably not going to come to that conclusion without a little help from your pastor - or your wife - but just the same, let's say you've had an epiphany). So how do you go about developing the habit of love?
In the first place you need to understand that love is about action. Your wife is your closest neighbor and Jesus illustrated love for your neighbor by telling the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). As you recall, there is nothing in the story about the citizen of Samaria telling the man in need how much he loved him or feeling love for him. In the parable, love was all about what the Samaritan did.
Indeed, a husband is enjoined to love his wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). And how did Jesus show love for his bride? By sacrificing himself for her. Jesus continues to exercise self-sacrificial service in providing continual intercession on behalf of his Church. So, get it through your head; in order to really love your wife you need to develop habits of love. In short, you need to turn off the television, get off the couch and take action.
For instance, you may want to work on picking up your dirty laundry and putting it in its proper place. It isn't loving to toss your soiled socks and underwear on the floor, expecting your wife to transfer them to the dirty clothes hamper. You might also develop the habit of letting your wife know where you are when you don't come directly home from work. Or perhaps you need to acquire the habit of cleaning up the bathroom sink after you trim your beard. All of these examples may seem like no big deal but I guarantee you, these are the sort of things that show your wife you love her.
While you’re mastering these habits you ought to get to work on controlling your anger as well. Indeed, your wife would feel loved and secure if you got that under control even if you were a little lax in the things mentioned above. You should also take on habits of Bible study and prayer with your wife and children, of loving admonition instead of degrading criticism and cheerful participation in work rather than grudging drudging.
"Great" you say. "But how do I actually get started in developing habits of love?" Well, I'm glad you asked. The answer is: just do it. Pick one or two easy tasks you know you should do in order to show love to your wife and start doing them. Put off the old behavior of tossing your dirty laundry on the floor and put on the new behavior of walking to the laundry hamper, lifting the lid and dropping your smelly socks on the inside. Put off the old behavior of blowing up at your wife and put on the new behavior of self control. If you can control your temper at work when someone annoys you, there is no reason you can't do the same at home. You do all of this in the strength of the Lord, but you need to understand that God expects you to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose (Philippians 2:12b-13). Like Gideon, God calls you to go in the strength you have (Judges 6:14) and learn to walk even as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). Whether we like it or not, the Bible says we learn habits of godliness the same way we learn sinful habits - by continual practice. There isn't a silver bullet or magic wand that makes the fruit of the spirit grow in some mystical way apart from our Holy Spirit and Bible guided effort. It's called fruit for a reason; it requires cultivation.
More on this later.