A Word to Husbands
By God’s grace, every Christian marriage is about more than marriage.
The purpose of human marriage is to point away from itself to the ultimate marriage made in heaven: that of Christ, the Bridegroom, and the church, His bride. Marriage, in other words, is about God’s ultimate purpose “to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). This is why Paul offers specific instructions for husbands: so that their marriages might display the union God intends.
In marriage, the husband’s primary objective is not to make sure his wife is physically and emotionally sustained. That is part of it, of course—but his ultimate objective should be that his wife will be prepared to meet Jesus.
To that end, the word that Paul uses for “love” here, agape, is important: it expresses self-sacrifice and self-abasement. It’s about what we give, not what we get. It’s about what we owe, not what we’re due. It’s not about seeking what’s good for you; it’s about giving yourself up for what’s truly good for your wife, so that she might be “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). This was the purpose for which Christ gave His life for His church; and, as a picture of this, it is what a husband is to give himself up for and pursue for his wife.
But if you are a husband, how do you love in this way in the day-to-day reality of life? One practical step is to look for the absence of “NAG-ing”. That is, you must renounce neglect, physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and, if career, club, or church responsibilities interfere, you may need to re-evaluate your commitments. You also need to renounce abuse, which, while including more egregious sins, also encompasses belittling your wife, talking down to her, treating her with disregard, or acting as if she’s really fortunate to be married to you. And finally, you need to ensure you never take your marriage for granted, which can become so easy as time goes by.
Yet as helpful as such practical reminders are, the ultimate yardstick for, and motivation to, love is the cross-shaped love of Christ for His bride. Without a clear view of how Jesus loves His church, our best intentions will flounder, and our failures will crush us. So we must look to Christ, who, although He needed no one and nothing, came and gave Himself up in order that we, in our need, rebellion, and emptiness, may be caught up in His embrace, welcomed into His heart, brought into His family, and considered a part of His bride.
Do you find yourself saying, “Why would He ever love me like that?” If so, you see what a high calling it is for husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” So if you are a husband, or hope to be one day, it must start with prayer: prayer that the Holy Spirit will enable you to think biblically, live obediently, and truly love selflessly. And if you are a wife, or hope to be one day, this should likewise be your prayer for your husband, for the sake of your joy and his, but most of all for God’s glory.
Wives and Husbands
22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.1 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
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