Love is Not Self-Seeking

The Bible teaches that one of the prominent characteristics that reveals the force and nature of love is that it “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthian 13:5, KJV) or “is not self-seeking” (NIV). Essentially this means that those who embody true, biblical love do not insist upon their own way or their own rights. Rather, those who genuinely love neither take any thought for themselves nor pursue their own interests. They are unselfish. In a culture that is overrun with a sense of entitlement and egocentrism, this is a critical lesson to be learned. This is especially the case when it comes to one of the most selfish ventures of our times – marriage.

The Bible calls us to serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, look out for the interests of others, and so forth (Gal.5:15, 6:2; Php. 2:4). In agreement with these concepts, 1 Corinthians 13:5 teaches us that we should not seek our own happiness exclusively or even mainly. Instead, we should seek the welfare of others as more important than our own - even when personal sacrifice and self-denial become necessary.

We should not seek our own advantage, comfort, ease, honor, pleasure, or profit but sacrifice all of the above for the benefit of others. These are the expectations for our relationships in general. But these admonishments certainly apply to our most important human relationship – the union with one's partner in marriage.

This does not mean that one must destroy regard for oneself altogether. Neither does it mean that we should completely neglect our own health and welfare. Our ability to love others is predicated on our God given instinct to love oneself. This is seen in the “Golden Rule”, the “Great Commandments” and elsewhere in the New Testament. [See previous article.] The expression that love “seeketh not her own” is written in a comparative sense denoting that one’s happiness, welfare, and interests are not the chief priority for those who are under love’s influence.

With respect to marriage, the idea that love is not self-seeking is a completely foreign concept to many in our society. Sociologists and social psychologists have noted a cultural shift in the last half-century regarding the expectations of marriage. Previously marriage was seen primarily as a social institution to provide for family integrity, stability, security, and contentment. The current predominate view is that marriage exists nearly exclusively for the purpose of companionship to provide for personal happiness and emotional needs.

The focus of marriage used to be on advancing family, community, and society. Now the focus seems to be on what the individual can get out of the relationship emotionally, financially, and otherwise. And, all too often when a marriage is not perceived to be fulfilling these functions sufficiently it is discarded or abandon in pursuit of another relationship.

In order to find real joy and contentment in your marriage and in life you must first learn the lesson that love is not self-seeking. You must come to accept that times of personal unhappiness are sometimes necessary. A commitment to love involves a commitment to sacrifice. Putting the best interests of your relationship with your mate in front of your personal welfare will ultimately benefit both you and your partner. Loving God’s way never fails.

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