Passages like I Cor. 13 can provide a decent view of what love is. To help get a full picture, though, of how husbands are to love our wives, we should also discuss what love isn't. In light of our scriptural mandate, there are at least these four key "isn't" items of which we should be aware. Love isn't:
- A feeling. Agapao, as used in these passages, is a verb. It is an action, not an emotion. We are to actively love our wives regardless of emotion. We can't get out of the responsibility just because "we don't feel like it."
- A choice. These passages are not suggestions. They are phrased as imperatives, or commands. Paul didn't say, "husbands, it'd be good if you loved you wives, but if not, that's okay too." Husbands - love your wives.
- Abdication of a headship role. This one gets into submission, which I'll address later in the series. For now, though, suffice it to say that it is not a loving act to capitulate headship - even when it seems the "selfless" or "loving" thing to do. For more on this, see this excellent post at The Bible Archive.
- A means of manipulation. We are not to serve our wives in order to benefit ourselves. While we may realize benefits from it (e.g. our prayers won't be hindered), our motivation needs to be focused on our wives. When we seek to do something out of desire for a "reward," we set ourselves up for disappointment if the "return" isn't what we expected. That leads to less motivation the next time. No, it is better to keep our focus on our wives' well being, for their sake and ours.
There are a number of things love "isn't." Aside from these four items, look at I Cor. 13 and see that love is not in opposition to the attributes described there. Love isn't unkind, impatient, untrusting, demanding of its own way. Keeping in mind some of these things that love isn't helps us know better when our love for our wives is what it should be.