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Wired to Love

How do we show love and kindness to others in a time when our culture is so polarized? Chris and Tim invite Bob Lepine, author of Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage that Honors God, to discuss the power behind 1 Corinthians 13, proactively serving others, and letting the Holy Spirit work through active pursuit of love.


Speaker 1:

Welcome to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is produced by the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships. For additional resources on healthy relationships, like videos, blogs, or events near you, visit our website at cmr.biola.edu.

Chris Grace:

Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast with Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, I'm Dr. Chris Grace. And Dr. Muehlhoff is a communications theorist and expert, and we both teach here at Biola University. I'm a psychologist. And we've been able to do something that is just an awesome blessing, Tim, that is to take communications psychology and bring it together in the field of relationships and marriage. And both of us teaching here at Biola come out at this from a biblical perspective and a foundation, and it's just awesome to be able to talk about relationships and marriages from this biblical perspective. Tim, one of the cool things also that we get to do is, interview authors who have written books or blogs, or other things like that, that are relevant, and they have joined us for these podcasts. And we have a great guest today who's got a wonderful book out there, and Tim, you know him, so I'll let you introduce him. He's been on our podcast before.

Tim Muehlhoff:

It's so much fun to have friends on the podcast, and you will know our guest, Bob Lepine, if you've listened to radios or podcasts. Bob Lepine is the co-host of Family Life Today, and now with Dave and Anne Wilson. He's been with Family Life for a long time; that's where we first met, at least, my goodness, 26 years ago. He is a producer of films, a director, and he's also a writer. He wrote the Christian Husband, which is awesome, we sell it at Family Life conferences. And he's also the author of a brand new book, just came out in July, called Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage that Honors God. So welcome, Bob Lepine.

Bob Lepine:

Tim. It's great to be with you and appreciate this podcast. And Chris, good to be with you as well.

Chris Grace:

Well, it's so good to have you, Bob. And I'll just say what a joy and a pleasure it was to open your book, Love Like You Mean It, and get to read it. It really starts and ends with an amazing foundation. I love what you've done. We've got so many good books out there on marriage, but what you did is really unique. And I want you to tell the listeners why and how you came upon this, but basically it's taking a very well-known passage in First Corinthians 13 that people have in their weddings, and many people who don't even know much about the Bible put this in their wedding. And you've decided to write a book on it, so I'd love to hear how you came up with the idea, and then share a little bit about your story about the book.

Bob Lepine:

Yeah. I share in the book that I remember the first time I ever read First Corinthians 13, because I was in junior high and I was walking home from school, and on my way home there was a new business that had opened up and it was a head shop. And I didn't know what a head shop was. I mean, I was a junior high kid and this was the sixties. And for listeners who are going, "What's a head shop?" This is where you go to get paraphernalia for marijuana, and it's part of the marijuana culture. But I walked in and the place was full of blue lights and posters, and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were on the walls, and there were were a couple of posters up on the walls; one had desiderata, that says, "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here." And I remember reading that and right next to it is, "Love is patient, love is kind."

Chris Grace:

Love is kind.

Bob Lepine:

And I'm going, "First Corinthians 13? What? Man, wow, that's heavy stuff, man." So this is one of those passages that even non-Christians, they may have heard it. And if they haven't heard it, when they do hear it, they go, "There's something profound and powerful there." And I've always thought of this passage as just this general exhortation that we should be loving people, and I think that's true, but I started to think, what would it look like if we got real specific and said, "Okay, let's try to apply this in marriage, and let's talk about how important patience is in a marriage. How important kindness is in a marriage." Each of these virtues that get listed in this passage. And we have to keep in mind when this passage was written by the apostle Paul to the believers in Corinth, this was a rebuke. This was not a gentle admonition.

    I think we have to hear it read this way: Paul has just been talking about spiritual gifts, and the Corinthians were all very proud of their spiritual giftedness, and they rated one another on how gifted you were, and the more gifted people were put up front and the less gifted people were in the back. And Paul says, "Gifts are good, but there's a more excellent way. There's something more important. It doesn't matter how gifted you are, if you don't have love, you've got nothing."

    And so when we get to the portion that we're familiar with, I hear Paul saying, "Listen guys, love is patient, love is kind. Love is not self-seeking, it doesn't insist on its own way." It goes on through the passage. This is not like we read it in weddings; "Love is patient love is kind." No. This is a scolding that he's giving these people; "You guys, if you want to be loving, you've got to switch a different way. You've got to be patient and kind," and on through this list of virtues.

    So I looked at that passage. The years I've been involved in marriage ministry, I just said, "I've never seen a treatment of this passage with marriage as the application." And so that's what led me to sit down and start meditating for a long time on the passage, and starting to apply it in the marriage setting.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Bob, I'm currently working on a book on common grace. And I think with this passage, the universal appeal of it is that the spirit has just really wired our hearts, Christian and non-Christian, to this. One of my favorite shows is The Office. And I actually got this clip approved for Family Life marriage conferences to show it. And if you know the scene I'm talking about, Jim and Pam, who were the idealized romantic couple, have gotten married; remember it's an unplanned pregnancy. They get married, and now Jim is going off every weekend for his dream job leaving her with an infant, and they are in marital counseling and it is not going well.

    And he literally says goodbye to her, because he's got to go to Philadelphia one more time but he forgets his umbrella. So he's getting into the taxi and Pam runs out to give him the umbrella and he wants to hug her, and she can not hug him. And then they do a flashback to the wedding and it is read in its entirety, First Corinthians 13. And she hears it, remembers the wedding, and turns around and hugs him.

    And I thought, "Man, The Office gets it." They get the pull and the power of this. And so let me just mention about the rebuke part; I thought that's great insight. I'm going to throw a curve ball to you because you guys did with my anniversary, so this is payback time, Bob. How do you think Paul would use First Corinthians to talk about Christians and the argument culture today, as we're talking about people who disagree with us? You know what I mean? How do you think he would read it to us?

Bob Lepine:

Yeah. I know exactly what you mean, and I think we have to look at a passage like this and ask ourselves in our conversations... We are to love our neighbor, we're to love our enemies. Are these virtues true about how we interact with our neighbors or even with our enemies? Are we patient with our neighbors? The apostle Paul says, "The Lord's servant must be kind, not quarrelsome, patient... " There's a whole list of these things. Are we kind to one another? Are we self-seeking? Are we trying to win, or are we trying to understand?

    Actually, I just preached a message on this at our church, about how we can prioritize civility and humility and the dignity of another person above our political viewpoints, and how we should strive to do that and strive to, at the end of any encounter, make sure that our political opponent would know, "He really listened. He was humble. He was civil in how he interacted with me." You may say, "Well, that's impractical. Nobody's going to want a debate that way." And I would say, "If we followed Jesus' pattern and example, we may not win this debate, but we will win a culture by following Jesus' pattern and example."

Tim Muehlhoff:

One of my favorite chapters of your book, again, Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage that Honors God... And I'm so sorry you couldn't find a better person to do the forward. I mean, Gary Thomas? Okay, fine. Sacred Marriages; we've talked about that book a ton-

Bob Lepine:

It's a great book.

Tim Muehlhoff:

... one of our favorite books. But I love your Chapter 6, Bob, and how current it is in today's political climate, where, of course you quote First Corinthians 13:5, "Love is not rude. It is not irritable or resentful." And a new study just came up, Bob, that's been done 20 years in a row. But in a time when Americans don't agree on anything, 98% of Americans feel that incivility is threatening the very fabric of our nation, and 68% of people believe it's at crisis levels.

Bob Lepine:

Yep. Yeah. I saw-

Tim Muehlhoff:

So you mentioned-

Bob Lepine:

I saw the study, and I agree. I think we are on the verge of the social fabric unraveling, and it's in large part because we've forgotten how to be civil with one another and humble with one another, and show dignity to another person with whom we disagree.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah. And so in this chapter, you're talking about Mr. Rogers, of course, who we just love the movie and the documentary that was on him. But I want to read two quotes that you have, that I thought were really pertinent. Then one sentence that is just "drop the mic" sentence. "At a time when the level of civility and political discourse in the United States was developing into contempt, anger, cynicism, and sarcasm, people found themselves longing for someone who might remind us of how we were supposed to treat one another." Now think back when that was, Bob.

Bob Lepine:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right? I mean, that's the rise of Mr. Rogers.

Bob Lepine:

Right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And so, man, today, a lot of us would like to go back to that. And then you make this comment; I thought this was so good. Now you were applying it to marriage, but it applies universally. You say this: "Rudeness, irritability, and resentment are love killers." Man, that's powerful. Unpack that a little bit?

Bob Lepine:

Well, where rudeness, irritability and resentment exist, love leaves the building. It leaves the room. You can't say, "You know, you're rude to me, but I'm just so drawn to you." Right? "You're irritable, and that makes me want to bond with you." There's no emotional connection. In fact, there's the opposite. You know, Tim, we talk at the Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaway about how the natural drift in every relationship is toward isolation, and you have to work to cultivate oneness. Well, rudeness is not a strategy for oneness. There's no couple that says, "We just feel closer to one another when we're rude with each other." There is no couple that says, "When she's irritable with me, I just want to be with her and want to get to know her more, and we're we connect."

    No. These are love killers, because they force us away from one another into isolation, and we have to be purposeful. Not just to try to throttle rudeness, irritability, and resentment, we have to be careful to learn how to replace them. So how do I replace rudeness? What do I replace it with? Well, you replace it with kindness, with being pleasant to another person. You replace irritability with being kind and gracious. You replace resentment with humility and with grace. And so, we have to be growing in these virtues, and we have to be putting to death the things that will kill love in a relationship.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And then let me just say this: Kudos... I laughed out loud when I read this, because this is where I live, Bob. I did standup comedy in college and I was on the debate team. So kudos to you for mentioning Mad Magazine. That made me laugh out loud, but I live Al Jaffee's snappy answers to stupid questions. Bob, that is a constant narrative in my mind, is to do that. And you do a great job explaining it, right? There was an image given, like you said, a woman who pulls out a cigarette even though there were signs everywhere that say, "Absolutely no smoking," and then she says to the office manager, "Mind if I smoke?"

    And this is where I live, Bob. When people say things, I have this list of, I want to say, every one of these, and I have to really guard myself. It is not good, but kudos. And then you stick something in your book that just ticks me off. You need to warn people. If you're going to go on a podcast, say, "Don't read 113. Don't read that page." You stick this horrible list, Nancy DeMoss... And I don't even know how to say her last name. [crosstalk 00:14:26]. I don't even want to say it. How do you say it?

Bob Lepine:

Wolgemuth.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Wolgemuth?

Bob Lepine:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

She gives a horrible diagnostic list if you're rude, like, "How's your love life?" I didn't want to read any of these.

Bob Lepine:

I'm going to read a few of these for you, okay?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Go ahead.

Bob Lepine:

So, rudeness: Do you have good manners? Are you courteous to others, especially in your home? Are you tactful? Are you sensitive to the feelings of others? Do you choose your words carefully so you don't needlessly offend another person? Are you agreeable when you must disagree with someone? Do you use sarcasm or put downs that show disrespect?

    Listen, before I stepped on your toes mine were stepped on, so I'm just passing along to you what I had to experience myself. Because in our marriage, and I learned early on... I grew up in a family where snappy answers was a sign of affection. You'd be funny with somebody, and you'd use a little sarcasm and a little... If you zing somebody they'd smile back at you like, "Oh, you got that." And so humor was a little bit of an affection response. I tried that with Marianne early in our marriage, and she would go away crying at some snappy answer I'd given her, and I couldn't figure out... I was trying to be loving and it didn't work, and that's where I had to realize, "No, I need to understand who this is and how my words are affecting her." And I had to learn that I need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to sarcasm in my case.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. No [inaudible 00:16:07]. Bob, there's so much in this book. One thing that challenged me frankly, and I wonder about and ponder, is as we're talking about this, Paul used the word kindness, the Greek word, very differently than... And you brought this out beautifully in your book. And you wrap it up with this idea that if a person says, "But I'm thinking kind thoughts about the other person even when I disagree with them," that that's really in essence, not enough. There must be action and behavior. And I love that as a psychologist, that oftentimes we think, "I think good thoughts. I care about the other person I'm disagreeing with," or, "That's not really what I feel about my spouse." I love them deeply, but my behavior isn't showing that. I love how you brought out how Paul used that Greek word for kindness. I'd like you to talk... That's a great discovery, by the way.

Bob Lepine:

Yeah. Well, it was fascinating to me to learn that the most often used description of God in the old Testament is the Hebrew word "Hesed," which is translated, "Loving kindness, or steadfast love." It's the idea that God is actively seeking your best. I mean, kindness is different than niceness. Niceness is, I can be polite to you or I can be gentle toward you. Kindness is... Tim Keller says, "It's a sincere desire for the happiness of others." And someone else has said, "It's a readiness to do good to other people. It's love in work clothes." And I love that description of it. And so, what the Bible says about God is that God is actively pursuing what is good for us. More than 250 times in the old Testament, God is described as a God who is full of Hesed. Full of loving kindness.

    And Micheal Card, the singer-songwriter, pointed out, and I thought this was a great observation, he said, "For people in pagan nations, the idea that your pagan God would be all powerful, or that your pagan God would be full of justice, or your pagan God would be full of power, this was not a surprise to anybody. But for the Hebrews to learn that their God was not just powerful and creative and full of authority, but he was actively kind toward them." That was a game changer for them to say, "We have a God who loves us and is kind toward us." And I think it's a game changer in a marriage. The little acts of kindness that we do regularly in our marriage, these are the bonding agents that keep us pulled together. And so, as we work actively to say kind things and to do kind things, coming out of a heart that is predisposed toward your goodness, that I believe is the strong glue that keeps marriages bound together through the difficult times.

Chris Grace:

And Bob, you point out that research in the area of marriage finds that it's not just that bond and that glue, it really is the difference between marriages that thrive and marriages that struggle. In fact, it's one of the greatest predictors of marital satisfaction as you note. And you also brought in CS Lewis, and I do this just because Tim is here; I bring up CS Lewis quotes. But you brought it into your book as well, and I love the quote when he talked about, "Don't waste your time bothering whether you love your neighbor, act as if you did."

    And as soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you're behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him, right? Don't sit around trying to manufacture your feelings. Ask yourself, "If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do? And when you've found the answer, go and do it."

Bob Lepine:

Isn't that a great quote.

Chris Grace:

It's an amazing quote. And what Tim brought up in this culture today, argumentative culture, the challenge that I face, and I think some of the listeners face, is, "How in the world am I going to go and express love to somebody that I so much disagree with?" But that's what Jesus calls us to. That's what this whole point is, and that's what Paul says. And you could write a whole book on this one chapter of just kindness, because it really does revolve not just the way I think about things. It's my actions that I express, and do.

Bob Lepine:

It is. And I think we have to be careful to say we're not aiming toward simple behavior modification, we're aiming first of all, and I make this point in the book, we have to have a heart that is predisposed in this direction. If all you're trying to do is manufacture kind words or kind actions, and it's not coming out of a heart of kindness, that's not going to last long. Although, to CS Lewis' point, if you're trying to cultivate the virtue of kindness, the best way to cultivate it is to act as if you already have it. So go ahead and do these things, and see if your heart doesn't change in the process.

    But ultimately what we want is a heart that's predisposed in the other direction, and then the fruit of that loving heart should be kind words and actions toward another person. So we are whole people, body, soul, and spirit, right? And we have to recognize that what's going on in our heart, and what's going on in our body needs to sync up. And that's why just to say, "Well, I had a kind thought toward you, I just never said anything." Well, that doesn't do any good in a marriage. Or, "I had a kind thought, but I never acted on it." That's no good either. By the same token, if somebody's just faking it for a long time, that's not what you're looking for either. What you're looking for is for both of those to come together.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Boy, this is making me think of Sean Achor's work. He's a Harvard psychologist, he wrote a book called The Happiness Advantage. So to complete this thought, if you were to... This is what he says, "Every day for a week, pick three kind things your spouse has done, and just list them." And do that for one week. He says the results will last not one week, two weeks, one month, three months, the last would be six months. If you took one week and did that and focus on the kind things your spouse did, the effect that it would have on your attitude is amazing, and could last up to six months, he says, the benefit.

Bob Lepine:

And turn that around and let's also say, what if we got up and we proactively said, "What are three kind things I can say or do today, intentionally, purposefully, in my marriage?" And watch and see if your affections toward your spouse don't change as you are proactively seeking to do kind things for your spouse. And again, we're not talking about huge gestures, like, "I need 24 roses delivered." We're talking about little acts of kindness, little things that you may think, "I don't even know if they know that I did that," but just keep doing them over time and see if it doesn't change your own heart and change the temperature in your marriage.

Chris Grace:

Bob, I love that, because what Tim just brought up, and what you've brought out is so awesome in your chapter on this and in your book in general, is the power of our behavior on the lives of those nearest to us. And not just in the words we speak, but in our gracious actions. We haven't even gotten to humility, and we haven't even gotten to generosity, and we haven't even gotten to being love is unflappable, and there are so many good things in this book. And so Bob, one of the things that I just want to commend you on, it's an extremely readable book, and it just... I love the theology in there. I love what you've uncovered about some of these great biblical passages, but even just the specific words like kindness and how it's used, and humility. So congratulations on a great book, and it's just awesome to have you here.

Bob Lepine:

Well, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this. And think about where this passage ends, I think this is so important for couples to recognize, when Paul is wrapping this up and he says, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love never gives up, never fails, never quits." And that has got to be understood. When he says, "Believes all things," it doesn't mean love is gullible, or that love is naive, but it means that we are predisposed in a direction to say, "I want to believe the best about you, I want to persevere, I want to endure, I want to be on your side and on your team, and I'm not giving up."

    And this is where we have to understand, that if we are looking inside of us for the kind of love that will not give up on another person, we don't have enough of a supply for that. We have to understand that our supply has to come from the love of God that has been shed abroad in our heart. That's the source from which we can now love another person. So we drink in God's love, we pour it out to our spouse. And if our love for our spouse is running dry, we need to go back and drink in some more of God's love, and let him change our heart and our attitude and fill us up again so we've got more to pour out.

Chris Grace:

I love that making it gospel-focused. That's really what I read out of your book to them. This is about our behavior and our world being a model for those out in the world who don't have this, who need this desperately. And they see it in our actions and they see it in our behavior. And Bob, I really appreciate the way you brought out this gospel-themed idea that this kind of love shares and gives water to a world that's dry and parched, and I love that theme.

Bob Lepine:

Thank you for that. We have just wrapped up a 10 part video series on this book, and so we are hoping small groups of couples can get together. This will be out in November, but we're hoping that marriage groups will go through these chapters, and we hope it will stimulate some great conversations and some great action points out of that.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Well, Bob, we're huge fans of Family Life, Chris and I with our wives are both on the speaker team. And on the speaker team there's nobody more admired than you, Dennis Rainey. And we had Dennis on a year ago, and said to Chris, "We've got to get Bob Lepine, we just have to." So what a treat for us. We know how much in demand you are from Alistair Begg, to Gospel Coalition, to Family Life, so thank you so much for taking time to be on our podcast, we really appreciate it.

Bob Lepine:

I appreciate both of you guys and the great work you're doing, and it's an honor to be on with you, thanks.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Thanks, Bob.

Bob Lepine:

Yep.

Chris Grace:

Thank you so much. And for listeners out there, go check out his book, Love Like You Mean It. Just came out in July. You'll enjoy it. And go to the CMR webpage, cmr.biola.edu, for more information on that, and information on blogs and podcasts that we've done in the past, and on this one in particular. So hey, it's good having you. Thanks Tim and Bob again, and we'll talk to you all later.

Speaker 1:

Have you ever been asked to mentor a young married couple, but were afraid to say yes? Thankfully the Center for Marriage and Relationships is here to help. The CMRs Marriage Mentoring Curriculum covers important topics, like communication, forgiveness, and the ever important sexual intimacy. It even provides tips on when and how to refer a couple for professional help. Sound interesting? Check out the resources page on our website at cmr.biola.edu.

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