The Love of Husband and Wife

Recently I learned that two young married couples I know, each of which has a toddler at home, have separated and are headed toward divorce. In one marriage, the husband says he no longer feels anything for his wife; in the other, the wife says she no longer loves her husband.  While the circumstances differ in each case, in both a root cause of the breakup is a superficial understanding of love that reflects the confusion of our culture.

Some time ago another couple asked me to speak at their wedding.  As I prayed I felt inspired to compose the following dialogue about “True Love.”  I believe it supplies an antidote from the New Testament to some of the inadequate understandings of love common even among practicing Christians today.

True Love

One day two disciples were walking down a dusty road with their Teacher, and the conversation turned toward marriage, and how the only enduring foundation for marriage is true love.

“Teacher,” one of them asked, “please tell us, What is true love?”

And the Teacher said to them,

“If a man and a woman find joy in one another’s presence,

if they can scarcely keep themselves apart,

if to her,

He is like the sun rising in its strength and beauty,

if she loves to hear his voice, to look at Him and to feel his arms around her,

and if to him,

She is like the moon and ten thousand stars shining on a summer’s night,

or like the fragrance of roses at dawn….

if her touch is like magic and her kisses sweeter than wine,

if they love to laugh together, sing together, dance together, cry together—

this is a gift from God, it is good.

But, I tell you solemnly, this is not true love;

it is changeable, and you cannot rely on it.”


The disciples were amazed that so beautiful a love still fell short of true love, and they walked on, waiting for him to finish.  After awhile, he spoke again.…


“Ah, but if a man and a woman appreciate and respect one another,

if they talk about everything and learn to listen to one another,

if they dream the same dreams,

pursue the same goals,

and hope the same hopes,

yes, even if they share as much as any two people on earth—

and such communion is rare and very good—

still, I tell you, this also would not be true love.


By now the disciples were very amazed and perplexed.  And as they followed their Master along the road, they were sure that his next words would reveal the secret of true love.


After awhile the Teacher spoke again,

“Ah, if a young man and a young woman have a common vision,

if they pray together,

if they serve the poor and homeless,

if they work side by side,

if together they share what they have,

indeed, if they are willing to pour out their very lives in service to others,

no, I tell you, even that is not true love,

and in the long run, it could fail them utterly.”


At this the disciples were completely astounded.  Grabbing his arm, the young man and the young woman stopped him, and implored him:  “Teacher, keep us in suspense no longer!   Tell us then, what is true love?”


Looking from the face of one to the other and gazing into their eyes, he said,


“If a man chooses to love his wife as Christ loves his Church,

if like Christ, he lays aside his pride and sacrifices himself for her—

putting her needs before his needs,

her happiness before his happiness,

if he will care for her and take thought for her,

if he chooses to keep loving her

when their interests diverge,

when her youthful beauty fades,

when she doesn’t speak sweetly

and when he doesn’t feel ‘loving’….

“And if a woman chooses to put her husband first,

to follow his lead as the true Church defers to her heavenly Bridegroom,

if she is patient with his failings (those he sees and those he does not),

if she encourages him and forgives him,

if she respects him even when his faults are obvious or she must pay the price for his mistakes,

if she has the courage to tell him the truth in love,

yet stand by him through it all….


“And if neither wife nor husband will let the sun go down on their anger,

but if each will race to repent and reconcile,

and if both determine to let nothing on earth divide them

as long as they both shall live,

there, I tell you, is true love,

and that marriage shall never be shaken.”


“But Lord,” the disciples said, “This is impossible!  If that is how it is, it would be better not marry.”


But Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, only believe.  With man this is impossible.  But with God, all things are possible.”

From “The Testimony of Peter,” a pseudonymous apocryphal work reflecting early Christian perspectives on love and marriage.



Filed under biblical theology, Peter Williamson, Uncategorized

14 responses to “The Love of Husband and Wife

  1. Bob Smentowski

    My wife and I have experienced this “true love”. We know and God has revealed to us that it is very possible to love each other in this way. I remember racing to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession because I had hurt her. Above all, she has been Christ to me and I pray that I am Christ to her. I AM A VERY BLESSED MAN.

  2. Pingback: Learning about Love « Learning 2B Joseph

  3. Pingback: The Love of Husband and Wife (via Speaking of Scripture: Conversation about the word of God in the life and mission of the Church) « Jackies Junction

  4. Pingback: The Love of Husband and Wife (via Speaking of Scripture: Conversation about the word of God in the life and mission of the Church) « Jackies Junction

  5. Cathy

    I’m slowly starting to walk in Gods way of being the wife He wants me to be. Its never easy shedding our way of doing things, but when you step out in faith God will give you the grace and the strength you need. The key is keeping our eyes on Jesus! Not on what our spouse is or isn’t doing. I’m now seeing my marriage transformed right before my eyes. So thankful for a loving God that heals, restores and delivers.

  6. Where can I read more from the Testimony of Peter?

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  9. Wonderful – I’ll definitely use this at the next wedding I solemnise … indeed, I might come up with a reason to use it sooner!

  10. Unfortunately those couples who don’t “feel anything” probably aren’t going to be much happier the next time around.

    I’d like to welcome you to the Catholic Blog Directiory and invite you to participate in Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival, a weekly gathering where Catholic bloggers share posts with each other. This week’s edition is at


  12. There is great truth here, and what is most frightening is that people have not changed in the two thousand years since that text was penned. The disciples thought it better to never marry than to make such an effort – to choose the easier path. Yet all who do choose the path and follow it are rewarded beyond their expectations, the same is true of our salvation. We cannot expect great rewards to come from small efforts – and we must learn than some burdens are heavy and others are joyfully light and just by looking you cannot tell the difference which. This is especially true of love in marriage.

    Great post. Please share any information you have on the original text fragment via email, I’m curious as to it’s original language, where it was found, and any association with a particular branch of the early church.

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