Roger Marsh: Hello and welcome to Family Talk, a listener-supported division of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Roger Marsh. You know, most people believe that marriage is a 50/50 proposition. Well guess what? They're wrong. That's a performance-based marriage where husband and wife are always keeping score, if you will. Bob Lepine, who is the author of a book called Love Like You Mean It and he's our guest today here on Family Talk. He declares that married couples should seek to serve one another. Instead of asking, "Did you pull your weight today?"
Inspired by Jesus Christ himself, each spouse in a Christian marriage should be giving 100%, not just looking for a 50/50 relationship. Bob Lepine is the co-host of FamilyLife Today. He's also the teaching pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the husband to Mary Ann with whom he has five children. In addition, Bob also serves on the board of directors for the National Religious Broadcasters. Let's listen now to the second half of Dr. Dobson's conversation with Bob Lepine about his new book Love Like You Mean It, right here on Family Talk.
Dr. Dobson: Bob, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation yesterday when you were my guest. We talked about your book Love Like You Mean It. Let's begin by talking about that title. Are you suggesting that many couples come into marriage without a full understanding of what love means? Is that what you were reaching for there?
Bob Lepine: Well, that was my experience. I was in love with the idea of marriage. I was in love with the benefits of marriage. I think Dr. Dobson, I was in love with the idea of being loved. So I was happy to marry Mary Ann as long as she would make me feel the way I was feeling right now and make me feel that way forever. So I had a very self-focused idea of love, but the Bible gives us a completely different perspective. And Love Like You Mean It is really a call to let's love the way God calls us to love. Let's love authentically and genuinely, and let's love one another biblically.
Dr. Dobson: Did Mary Ann have a more mature understanding of love?
Bob Lepine: I think she was a little bit further ahead. I think she had a little more of a sacrificial heart than her boneheaded husband did at the time.
Dr. Dobson: How long did you go with her?
Bob Lepine: We started dating when I was 19 and we got married when I was 23. So we had like you and Shirley, about a four-year courtship before we got married.
Dr. Dobson: And it looks like it's going to work, doesn't it?
Bob Lepine: So far. So far we're hanging in there and like you, the marriage has grown sweeter and deeper, and we've been married for 41 years. In these years together, we just find it, the relationship is richer than ever. And I think that's the experience for so many couples who continue to persevere, to stay together, to work through the difficulties. There's a reward. There's a payoff on the other side of that.
Dr. Dobson: Hmm. Well, let's summarize where we were last time. You have written this book Love Like You Mean It and inside you have drawn information and understanding about love and about marriage from 1 Corinthians 13, where the Apostle Paul really describes what it really does mean to fall in love with somebody. It's certainly a whole lot more than romantic in nature. And it comes from an understanding of God's perspective on love.
We were getting to the question of humility. That word is not used in 1 Corinthians, but you infer it from what Paul says. Pick up right there and explain.
Bob Lepine: Yeah, the Bible says "love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant." And you stop and think about arrogance and boasting and envy. Well, the opposite of that is humility and humility is foundational to everything that this passage talks about. But Philippians chapter two says it's having the mind of Christ. It's not thinking only of your own interests, but also of the interests of others.
Dr. Dobson: Bob, I'd like you to elaborate on what humility really means. Because some people think that means you don't have self-respect. That's not what the scripture's talking about, is it?
Bob Lepine: No and in fact, I think a lot of people get confused thinking that humility means I should think less of myself than I do. And I think what the Bible is telling us is that humility means you should think of yourself less than you do. So it's not that you have a lower sense of self-worth. You need an accurate understanding of what the Bible says about our worth and our value, but we shouldn't be focused on ourselves. In J.B. Phillips paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13, he says, "Love does not cherish inflated ideas of its own importance." And I think that's a great way to explain what humility is.
Dr. Dobson: That is good. That is good. You got a chapter that's kind of funny. It says "Be a Bulldog" and you need to explain that. Have you ever owned a bulldog?
Bob Lepine: I've never owned a bulldog.
Dr. Dobson: I got to tell you, they are not loving. We had one that lived in our neighborhood that got a Scottie by the neck and wouldn't let go until he nearly killed him. When I think of marriage, I don't think of bulldogs.
Bob Lepine: Well, this came from a quote I heard our mutual friend Howard Hendricks, who has gone to be with the Lord. He was speaking one time and he quoted Winston Churchill who had said that, "God made a bulldog with his nose slanted backwards so that he could keep breathing without letting go." And I think about marriage and I think, "That's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to keep breathing without letting go." You dig in, you hang on, you keep breathing and you don't let go. And that tenacity…love is tenacious. That's how the Bible points this out to us. We need to be tenacious in our love for one another. Have the tenacity of a bulldog.
Dr. Dobson: Well, I don't know how to tell you this, Bob, but that's a stretch. A bulldog holds on while he's killing you is what he does. All right, let's go to the next one. Love is honest.
Bob Lepine: Yeah. And this is an area where I really feel like we need to pause and unpack this because the honesty that is required for love to flourish, I think first of all, is an honesty to say, "I'm going to know you and you're going to know me at the deepest level and we're going to be ..." "Well, it's what God said to Adam and Eve: "to be naked and unashamed." I think the nakedness that the Bible talks about in Genesis 2 is not a physical nakedness, but I think it's to be emotionally transparent with one another. It's to be who we really are in front of one another and to have no shame, and to have no condemnation for that.
So as a husband and wife, we have to learn how to love one another and recognize that those imperfections, those sins, those weaknesses, there's a way to deal with those things. And can I be safe enough in this relationship that I can be who I really am without rejection from my spouse? That's what real love looks like.
Dr. Dobson: Well, that one is absolutely critical. You cannot trust one another if you don't know that the other one is telling you the truth. And I felt that strongly when Shirley and I were first married. The truth meant a lot to me and Shirley had grown up in a home where there was an alcoholic father. And there were people that came to the door who wanted to be paid for this or that. And Shirley was taught to lie to that person, because that's the kind of life they lived. It was just a struggle. And she learned that the truth can be manipulated a bit.
We'd been married several years and Shirley went in the kitchen and made me a tuna fish sandwich. And she knows that I hate mayonnaise. I mean, I don't just dislike mayonnaise, I despise it. And yet, she felt like she had to put mayonnaise in this tuna fish in order to hold it together. And so, she put mayonnaise on my sandwich and I came in and the first thing I asked was that, "Did you put mayonnaise in the tuna?" And she said, "Yes." And I took a bite or two of it and realized that she did put mayonnaise in it. And that was no big deal.
I mean, that's a tiny, tiny little issue. It's almost petty, but I made a big deal about it because I said, "Shirley, if we can't trust each other on everything, then our marriage doesn't have an opportunity to breathe and to grow." I didn't get mad about it, but it was that I was expressing the fact that we must build our relationship on total honesty. And we've tried to do that since.
Bob Lepine: Well, and I had a very similar experience. I was the bad guy in this story, Dr. Dobson. I'd gone to the grocery store, Mary Ann had given me the list and I said, "I'll go get what you need." And Mary Ann and I approach the grocery store very differently. It's a shopping adventure for me and I want to see if there's anything new or if anything kind of jumps out at me, I want to be in the moment. She has the list. She wants to make sure we get what's on the list. We don't need to look at anything else. We just go through and get the list, and get out of there as quick as we can.
So I was all prepped. I'm on my own at the store. I've got her list. I'm getting everything she's asked for. And I walked by a bag of Cheetos and that was not on the list, but I wanted those Cheetos. I thought, "Those would be good to have." Now I knew if I came home with a bag of Cheetos, Mary Ann was going to go, "Why did you buy these Cheetos for?" But I decided I can buy Cheetos if I want to buy Cheetos. So I did. I bought the Cheetos. And then on the way home, I was thinking, "I'm going to be in trouble with my wife for buying a bag of Cheetos." So I thought, "I'm just going to hide them in the garage and she'll never know I bought them."
And when I want to have some Cheetos, I'll just run out there and get a little, few Cheetos and wash my hands off. She'll never know that I have my hidden stash of Cheetos. So I got home, I hid the Cheetos in the garage. I came in the back door. Mary Ann said, "Did you get everything at the store? Did they have everything?" I said, "Yep. They had everything." She said, "Did you buy anything else?" And I said, "Oh, I bought some grapes." And I had bought some grapes that weren't on the list, but I knew grapes were safe. So I said, "Yeah, I bought some grapes." She said, "Oh, okay." Now I had told the truth, but I hadn't told the whole truth because I left the Cheetos out of the equation.
Dr. Dobson: You cad.
Bob Lepine: Here's what happened. This was just at the time when grocery stores were starting to print receipts that had itemized lists of what you bought on the receipt. And I didn't realize that. So, when she picks up the receipt with the groceries, she goes, "Where are the Cheetos?" And all of a sudden, I was busted with my illicit purchase. And it wasn't that the Cheetos mattered all that much. It was that I had intentionally not told her about them. I was hiding something because I was afraid of her disapproval. The Bible says, "Love rejoices in the truth." And so, we have to have this kind of truthful honesty in marriage for our love to flourish.
Dr. Dobson: Love is really made up of a lot a little things, isn't it?
Bob Lepine: That's what passage is all about. All of these characteristics of patience and kindness, not self-seeking, not keeping a record of wrongs, not being rude or arrogant, being honest, not rejoicing in unrighteousness, rejoicing in the truth. All of these little things, these components, these are the ingredients that make love the kind of experience God calls it to be.
Dr. Dobson: Who would have believed that out of the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, we find references to mayonnaise and Cheetos. Let's go on to the next one. You said in another chapter: love is unflappable. Now that word is not in there, but you got it out.
Bob Lepine: Yeah. And here's where I tried to say certain places in the Bible, love is described as not being these things. So the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13, that love is not rude, that it's not irritable, and that it's not resentful. And I was trying to think, "Okay, well, if it's not those things, what is it?" And that's where the word unflappable came to mind. Somebody who is rude or irritable or resentful, that person is easily irritated and love is different than that. Love does not get irritated with little things. Love is not keeping a record of wrongs. Love is not rude to another person.
And you stop and think about it: when we are rude or irritable or resentful in marriage, we're not building the kind of emotional stability or emotional warmth that is necessary for love to grow. In fact, nobody is drawn to another person who is being irritable or being rude. We're repelled from them. We're isolating ourselves from them. So, for love to grow, we have to address what may be a natural tendency of ours to be rude or to get easily irritated, or to be resentful. To keep a record of the wrongs that our spouse has committed against us.
Dr. Dobson: And yet, we all tend to be rude and irritable at times. So that's part of marriage too, isn't it? I've never met a marriage that didn't have some of that in it, but it's what we do with it when it happens that matters.
Bob Lepine: And that's the other side of this. So, when our spouse is being rude or irritable or resentful, when we are bearing that, we're back to being patient, which is where this passage starts, that love is patient. We have to pour grace on the little sins of our spouse. You know, the Bible says it this way. It says, "Love overlooks a multitude of sins." And in the Book of Proverbs it says that, "It is a man's glory to overlook a transgression." You think about this in a marriage relationship if we had to confront one another every time one of us did something or said something the wrong way, we'd have no time to do anything else, but just be confronting each other regularly.
So, when your spouse is short with you or rude with you or irritable, you kind of have to pull back and say, "Okay, what else is going on?" We bear that with patience. Maybe we address it later, but we just bear this as an act of love for another person. And then we help one another become less rude, less irritable, less resentful, and work through this. Replace those behaviors with kindness and compassion and gentleness, and the godly qualities that should make up a loving relationship.
Dr. Dobson: Remind me of somewhere in the scripture where I remember a reference to little foxes.
Bob Lepine: Yeah. That's in the Song of Solomon where the writer Solomon talks about the little foxes in the vineyard that rob the vineyard of the love, and you're exactly right. Rudeness and irritability and resentment, those are the little foxes. They'll eat the grapes of love from a relationship and leave your vine empty and drain the love out of a relationship.
Dr. Dobson: In fact, in your book, you referred to rudeness as a killer of love.
Bob Lepine: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Nobody in a marriage has ever found themselves being drawn or attracted to a rude spouse or a rude partner. When your wife or your husband is saying something that is rude or maybe they're being sarcastic with you, or they're being inconsiderate with their speech, nobody finds themself saying, "Gee, I feel close to you right now. I feel drawn to you. I want to spend more time with you." And that's why I think rudeness and irritability and resentment are all working together to drain the love out of a marriage relationship, to kill the love in a marriage.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. In today's parlance, they would refer to it as a turnoff.
Bob Lepine: Exactly.
Dr. Dobson: Let's shift to another portion of the book where you talk about the 50/50 marriage. If I would walk up to somebody on the street and said, "Tell me what 50/50 marriages refer to. Is that a good thing to have a balance like that in marriage?" I think a high percentage of them would say, "Yeah, that's what we're seeking for," but you're very negative about that. Explain that negativity.
Bob Lepine: Well, the 50/50 marriage is a performance-based marriage. It's where we're always measuring one another's behavior or one another's love where we're looking not just at how can we serve one another, but, "did you pull your weight today? Did you do what I think you're supposed to do?" And I've heard it said for years that a person who's looking for a 50/50 marriage is often a poor judge of measurement or a person who says let's meet in the middle is a poor judge of distance. We often say, "Well, let's meet in the middle, but you should really come a little more onto my side than me having to come onto your side."
Dr. Dobson: It's a scorekeeping, isn't it? I did that for you. Now you do that for me.
Bob Lepine: Yeah. We serve one another in a marriage, but we can't be serving with a scorecard in our hands. As you said, if we do that, we find ourselves not loving one another, but competing with one another and saying, "I don't have to do my part today because you didn't do your part. And since you didn't do your part, no sugar in your coffee today."
Dr. Dobson: Would you call the ideal a 100/100 marriage?
Bob Lepine: Exactly. This is where we have the other person's interest at the forefront and we say, "Whatever it costs me, I'm going to sacrifice for your good." And stop and think about Jesus. Jesus was not a 50/50 lover of us. He does not come to us and say, "Well, I will love you, but here's what you got to do in order to earn my love."
No, Jesus pours out love unconditionally and that's the kind of love we should be pouring out to one another in our marriage. And you know this, Dr. Dobson. The only way we can pour that out in a marriage is if we first receive that kind of love from Jesus, then we can pour that out to our spouse regardless of what's going on, on their part.
Dr. Dobson: Here's a really important question from my perspective. The scripture in 1 Corinthians says, "While love does not rejoice in wrongdoing…" What is it referring to there?
Bob Lepine: Yeah. This is where the Bible says there is no joy found in the unrighteousness or the ungodly behavior of another person. So when it's me, when I'm the one who is doing wrong, I don't justify it. I don't minimize it. I don't say, "Well, that's just my personality." No. Love takes an attitude toward wrongdoing to say, We've got to get rid of this. We've got to sweep this out of our relationship." And when it's our spouse who is being unrighteous or who is sinning, they're doing things that they shouldn't be doing. We have to confront that, lovingly confront that to help drain the marriage of the toxic nature of this kind of unrighteousness or this ungodliness.
That's the wrongdoing that I think is being talked about here. And you can't have a healthy, strong, loving relationship if either party is committed to ... We'll give concrete examples. If a husband is committed to pornography, that kind of unrighteousness, you're not going to have a loving godly marriage where that's present in the marriage relationship.
Dr. Dobson: That's probably the most difficult question that I've asked you in these two days. Because it's very hard to imagine being as loving as the prescription in 1 Corinthians 13 when there is addictive behavior like pornography or a person is into infidelity or is involved in the gay lifestyle, or is an alcoholic, or is a wife beater or child abuser, or is into gambling. Those are really, really difficult questions.
Bob Lepine: And when this kind of wrongdoing or unrighteousness is present in a marriage, the most loving thing we can do as a spouse is not just to bear it, but to confront it and to help our husband or wife get free from this a controlling behavior. The Book of Galatians in chapter six, it says, "If you see a brother who is caught in a sin." So if it's your wife or your husband who is trapped, ensnared in a sinful behavior, you who are spiritual restore the other person with a spirit of meekness or gentleness.
You make it your goal to try to set your spouse spree from the sin that is enslaving them and that is controlling them. And you may need the help of the church leadership. You may need the help of a counselor. You may need to call the police in situations, but you're doing it with a heart of love to try to stop your spouse from this wicked behavior that has come to control their lives.
Dr. Dobson: What did you mean in the book when you talked about a marriage triangle?
Bob Lepine: This is a picture. You think about a triangle with three equal sides, an equilateral triangle. The husband's on the right side at the bottom of the triangle, the wife on the left side at the bottom of the triangle, and they want to draw closer to one another. God is at the top of that triangle. So if the husband and wife are committed to pursuing a growing relationship with God, as they draw closer to Him, they are going to draw closer to one another because the triangle is what brings them together as they come closer to one another in their pursuit of Him.
And I think that's where so many couples need to have their focus, rather than trying to fix one another. How can we draw closer to God and let God's Holy Spirit do the work in us to clean us up from our sinful, unrighteous behavior?
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. Well, Bob, we're out of time. I've really enjoyed this exploration of love in your book Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage that Honors God. And I recommend that our listeners get a copy of this. It's a wonderful treatise on love based on the love chapter of all times in First Corinthians 13. And you've drawn a lot of meaning out of it. And I don't know what you're working on now, but when you get it done, you give me a call, will you?
Bob Lepine: I would love to do that. It's been an honor to be on with you today and I just appreciate you so much, Dr. Dobson.
Roger Marsh: You've been listening to Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson. Our guest has been Bob Lepine, the co-host of FamilyLife Today who has been discussing his new book called Love Like You Mean It. In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul writes that, "Love does not envy or boast nor is it arrogant." In a marital context, that can sometimes sound like a tall order. But during our broadcast today, Bob rightly declared that God is asking us to be humble as we interact with our spouses.
True humility does not mean that we should think less of ourselves and our worth in Christ. Rather, biblical humility means that we think of ourselves less than we do. Now to learn more about Bob Lepine and his new book Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage that Honors God, visit our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org. And while you're there, if you missed any part of today or yesterday's program, you can hear it there as well. That's drjamesdobson.org/broadcast.
Here at Family Talk, we want to invite you to our 10-day marriage series, 10 days of mini devotionals for married couples. You can sign up online and these devos will be sent directly to you over the following 10 days. Go to drjamesdobson.org/marriageseries for more information. That's drjamesdobson.org/marriageseries.
I'm Roger Marsh. Be sure to join us again next time for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.