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Outdoing One Another in Marriage

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10 ESV

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10 NLT

When it comes to marriage and relationships, there are volumes written and discussed around the topic of “love”. If you google the word “marriage” or “relationships”, many of the search results would be related to the topic of love. And the Bible would agree that love is central to relationships – both in our vertical relationship with God and in our horizontal relationships with others.

But how that love demonstrates itself in the life of Christ-followers should be radically different from the “love” the rest of the world displays in relationships. I think that is what Paul was trying to convey when he said, “let love be genuine” and “outdo one another in showing honor” in the verses above. True, genuine, biblical love in human relationships reflects Jesus' love for us in three main ways: giving, serving, and self-sacrifice (1):

Giving: Biblical love gives without expecting anything in return. From John 3:16 to Romans 5:8 to James 1:5, again and again we see His love demonstrated in giving. Genuine love does not “give to get”. A heart of Christ-like love flows from the overwhelming love that it has received from God Himself. And then it gives. When it comes to giving, “outdoing one another in honor” might be something as simple as giving my full attention to my spouse on a day when I would rather just be alone. Allow the Spirit of God to direct you moment-by-moment in ways to display this kind of giving love to your spouse.

Serving: Jesus told His disciples that He “had not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). And we are called to follow His example, empowered by His Spirit. What might it look like to display this kind of love to your spouse as you “outdo one another in honor”? Think of small but significant ways you can serve your spouse. Can you be there to help them unload the groceries and put them away? Can you leave work early to get dinner started instead of waiting for your spouse to get home from their late work meeting? As stated earlier, allow the Spirit of God to direct you – but also be intentionally asking the Lord to help you find ways to demonstrate His love by serving.

Self-Sacrifice: John 15:12-13, Jesus tells his disciples, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” You may be called to lay down your physical body for your spouse at some point in your life – take a bullet, jump in front of a car, etc. But I would boldly assert that you will be called to lay down your life for your spouse by sacrificing your agenda for your spouse's. Or perhaps by putting aside your priorities so that you can put your spouse's priorities first. These and 10,000 other daily decisions show Christ-like love and self-sacrifice as part of how you joyfully love your spouse. This is real-life “outdoing one another in honor” kind of love.

And as a quick but vital reminder, there is no way any human can display this kind of biblical love without closely abiding and drawing their life and love from God Himself. He truly is the Vine and we are the branches, and we must draw our life from Him so that we can give out His love to our spouse daily.

I want to finish today with what a Pastor from Kansas had to share on this topic:

Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to give up His power and take upon Himself the form of a slave (Philippians 2). And if a man loves his wife, he should be ready to give up his power and become her servant. Conversely, the wife is instructed to be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5.22). But what wife would have difficulty becoming submissive to a man that defined himself as her servant?

The ideal marriage is one in which the husband says to his wife, “Honey, my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations mean nothing to me. If I can help you to become all that you can be, I’ll sacrifice everything I am for that.” In return, she says, “Oh, no! I’m ready to sacrifice my hopes and my dreams and my aspirations to enable you to become all that you can be.” And he says, “Oh, no . . .” And a fight ensues. It’s the only argument that Christians are supposed to have, for the Bible tells us to “outdo one another in love” (Romans 12.10), while “esteeming the other better than himself” (Philippians 2.3). Now that’s real love! (2)

For Husband and Wife:

1) Talk together about some ways in the past that you have seen your spouse giving, serving, and sacrificing for you?

2) Take some time to pray together, giving thanks for the ways you are giving, serving, and loving each other, while asking God to help you both keep growing in this.


(1) Tying the Knot by Rob Green. Chapter 2 “Love with Jesus as the Center”.

(2) News Article by Pastor Jeff Arnold: The Hutchinson News: February 16, 2013:

Photo by Samuel Rodriguez on Unsplash

Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at with any comments or questions.


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