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Marriages without agape (the biblical term for love) will most likely end up in disaster. Couples should always be friends, but you can only build a home on agape. Agape takes time, work, and patience. (And, there is a much better chance of developing it before you get married than after you get married!)

Sometimes you can think you're operating in agape when you're really not, especially if you've been married awhile. For example, in marriage counseling, a wife will sometimes say that she feels as if her husband is putting her down. Then her spouse will say, "I don't make her feel like that." Immediately, he is on the defensive. Therefore, he isn't acting out of real love (1 Cor. 13:5).

You see, in a marriage relationship, it doesn't matter how you feel. It matters how the other person feels.

In the above-mentioned hypothetical case, it is the husband's responsibility to find out why his wife feels as if he's putting her down and then talk it out and fix the problem. That's what it means to operate in agape love.

Agape is not automatic. It's something you have to work on. You have to work on seeing your mate as valuable and precious. You even have to work on seeing yourself that way, because you have people telling you just the opposite.

Some people grew up in homes with parents who told them they were worthless and that they'd never amount to anything. So they have to battle that. (This is another reason why it's important not to rush into a marriage relationship.)

Christian woman, if you're dating a man who grew up in a home where his parents talked about him and called him all kinds of names other than the one they gave him at birth, then guess what kind of person with whom you're going to walk down the aisle! Do you think that person is going to see you as valuable and precious? He can't even see himself as valuable and precious! He has to work on renewing his mind until he starts to see himself the way God sees him.

Sometimes you can hinder a person from working on what he needs to do by rushing into things. You may be ready, but that doesn't mean the other person is ready. That's why it's important to pray about every relationship. The person might be the right one, but God may be telling you to leave him alone—give him some time and pray that he'll do what's necessary to see himself as valuable and precious.

Agape in Parenting
Now what we commonly refer to as paternal or maternal love is really agape. It is present in both the believer and the unbeliever. The unbeliever is not able to attain to the full level of agape because he doesn't know where he got what little he has.

He's not hooked up or attached to its source. But the believer is attached to the source of agape. Your relationship with your children must be based on agape. Eros, phileo and storge (other forms of love) will not work.

Ten years ago, no one would have had a problem with that, because almost all of us saw our children as valuable and precious. But today we're finding that's not true.

Some of the things you hear about people doing to their kids lets you know that everyone doesn't see their children that way. You have to realize and understand the value and the preciousness of your home and those who are in it.

We dismissed a baby-sitter once, because we came home from an event, and she was on the phone talking about one of our children. If we see our home and our children as valuable and precious, then we're not going to have anyone looking after our children who doesn't agree with that.

Our daughter MiChelle has so many different definitions of the kind of baby and child she was because people have told her all kinds of things. They said that she cried all the time and that she was a bad baby. But, truthfully, MiChelle was the happiest of our babies. She rarely ever cried. I recently told her, "Look. You just need to stop listening to other people and listen to me and your dad."

Actually, we didn't have any bad children because we believed that the minute they reacted and responded to the word "no," they were old enough to be disciplined. But we didn't jump on them for every little thing they did, either. We knew they were children, not adults. You have to let children be children.

When you jump on them for every little thing, you're not going to learn the type of personality they have. You'll try to make them like you, and they'll hide who they really are from you. But what you don't want is to have someone around them calling them bad and saying all kinds of negative things about them. You simply can't let people talk negatively to your children.

Communicating Agape in the Home
You can see how integral agape should be to the family relationship. As I said, agape works best at the husband-and-wife level, then with children to almost the same degree, and then with others. Your children will never be as close to you as your mate.

There is only one person whom you should see as the most valuable and precious person on earth, and that is your husband or wife. Next should come your children, and it is important to make it clear to them that they are valuable and precious through both your actions and your words.

Most men can do that very easily in action, but they have trouble doing it in words. That is one of the problems with the last two generations. Fathers never told their children that they loved them. Likewise, husbands never told their wives they loved them. They just said, "Look at all the things I do for you."

But wives and children need to have love communicated to them in action and in words. Actions alone are not good enough. Love is something that should constantly be verbally expressed, especially in the Christian home.

In order to have success in your marriage and family, you have to recognize the importance of family (by esteeming the value and preciousness of each member) and establish God's Word as the final authority in your home.

Source: Establishing Godly Relationships Through Marriage & Family
by Deborah L. Butler
Excerpt permission granted by Harrison House Publishers

Author Biography

Deborah Butler
Web site: Word of Faith International Christian Center
Pastor Deborah L. Butler serves in ministry with her husband, Bishop Keith A. Butler at Word of Faith International Christian Center in Southfield, MI. She is a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel.

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