The “other” First John passage is an expression of Christian confidence before God. All of 1 John 3 treats the virtue of love as the hallmark of the believer. Lest anyone think the virtue of one’s expression of love is enough, the apostle reminds us that God’s grace already operates in us, and is the cause for our ability to love.
How does this work in the context of Christian marriage? Quite well, I would think. “God is greater than our hearts and knows everything,” we are told. person in love may well feel her or his love is quite powerful and profound. We do well to recall God is greater than that.
Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit that he gave us.
Like much biblical advice, we are encouraged to live out the faith or the feelings we have within us. Good advice heading into a marriage, I would think. Expressing of the virtue of love is important. First, we get practice. Second, the “feeling” of love benefits from an “incarnation” of sorts: the feelings are translated into something concrete, measurable, and it builds the confidence in the relationship.
This is also a good reading for wedding couples because it puts the emphasis squarely on God and our reliance on him. But it doesn’t let us off the hook for doing hard work to maintain a relationship. All married people–and I put myself at the top of the list–would do well to remember this.