I’ve heard it said that there are two basic problems in every marriage—one is the husband and the other is the wife. You see, every marriage is a relationship comprised of two sinners, which means that there are no perfect marriages, no perfect wives, no perfect husbands.
But that doesn’t let us off the hook, because the Bible tells us that God has some very specific intentions for our marriages and the roles we—husbands and wives—are to play.
In the New Testament, men are taught how God commands a husband to live with his wife:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 ESV)
The word that strikes me time and time again when I read this passage is the word “likewise.” This word is defined to mean, “in the same way” or “in a like manner.” But in the same way as what? To answer this, you have to back up a few verses:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV)
Simply put, what Paul is saying, that is, what God is commanding, is that husbands are to live with their wives in the same way that Christ laid His life down for the church, His bride.
Another clarifying passage is found in Ephesians 5. In it we read that husbands should love their wife like Jesus has loved His bride, the church.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)
The first question that comes to mind for me, as a husband attempting to apply this verse, is how does Christ love the church?
While there are too many ways to recount Christ’s love for the church, let’s look at just three as it relates to how a husband loves his wife. Jesus loves the church with an unflinching pursuit, a costly sacrifice, and a focused intentionality.
Jesus Loves The Church with a unflinching pursuit
It usually doesn’t take us very long into our marriage to realize that we are all broken in a lot of ways. As a matter of fact, Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. But when Jesus saw your deep brokenness, He didn’t run the other direction. He didn’t disengage or turn away or busy Himself with other matters. He didn’t just hope you figured it out and that things eventually got better for you. No, when we were unrighteous, when we had no understanding, when we turned away time and again, even though we did not pursue goodness, and our mouth was filled with deceit and bitterness, Jesus pursued us. He unflinchingly entered into our crazy.
So husbands, loving like Christ means that you love your wife by entering into the battle with her and for her. Don’t diminish her struggles or disengage when things get difficult, but that’s when you enter into them with her.
A few ways to do this include:
- Unflinchingly pursue your wife’s heart, spiritually, by sharing what you’re learning in the Bible. Of all the people in her life, she needs to hear the Bible from you the most. Share where God’s Word is convicting you of sin and showing you His greatness. This obviously assumes that you are reading and taking in God’s Word. Spending time in the Bible and sharing what you’re learning is a way to love your wife. Are you talking to your wife about what you’re learning from the Bible?
- Unflinchingly pursue your wife’s heart by learning to ask good questions. Ask her specific questions about her day, her plans, her challenges. And when she answers, actually listen to her. Learn to listen to her words and observe her actions. Are you asking her good questions that show her that she is valuable?
- Unflinchingly pursue you wife’s heart even if it costs you something. Loving her will certainly cost you your time, your plans, your money, your preferences, but it has yet to cost you your life. That’s how Jesus loves the church. Are you willing to let go of some of your preferences so that she might flourish?
This leads us to the second way that Jesus loves His church.
Jesus Loves The Church with Costly Sacrifice
Jesus sacrificed His comfort for her good. He gave up His rights so that she, the church, might have life. And He eventually died for His bride.
Husband, do you have a line you’re unwilling to cross in loving your wife? Do you have in your mind, I’m willing to go this far, but I won’t do THAT—however you define “that?”
There was no line that Jesus was unwilling to cross for His bride. That means that you sacrifice to protect her. You’re are the protector of your wife, spiritually and physically. Jesus protected us from the consequences of our sin, the attack of Satan, and ultimately, the wrath of God against us. He took the hit so that we could flourish. Husbands, you die to yourself to protect your bride.
A few practical ways to do this include:
- Protecting your wife by praying for her. There is nothing more powerful you could do for your wife than ask your Father in Heaven to act on her behalf. Are you willing to engage in the battle for her in prayer?
- Protecting your wife by protecting her time with the Lord. If you have young children, sacrifice whatever you need to so that she can find some alone with God away from the kids, consistently. Are you willing to give up some of your time in order for her to flourish?
- Protecting her from despair by encouraging her with evidences of God’s grace actively working in her life. Tell her specific ways you see the Spirit of God working in her. Her flesh and Satan want to convince her she is worthless and God isn’t doing anything in her life. Show her where God is at work. Are you willing to risk being a little uncomfortable by speaking words to her that she needs to hear?
- Finally, it should go without saying, but you also protect her physically. If there is a weird noise in the middle of the night, you go check. Even if your wife is a black belt in karate, you go first and tire them out before your wife takes them down. If anyone is dying first, it’s the husband. Are you willing to stand in front of the danger?
Jesus Loves The church with Focused Intentionality
Christ’s love is always intentional. In Ephesians 5:25-28, we read that He loved the bride in order to:
- Sanctify her
- Cleanse her
- Present her so that she might be holy
Christ intentionally sacrificed for the church in order to make her pure, radiant, and holy.
And the application for husbands quickly follows, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28 ESV).
Husband, how do you view your wife? Is she someone who is there simply to meet your needs or is it your intent to see your wife flourish emotionally and spiritually?
Try to think about it like this, think back to your wedding day. I bet your bride looked radiant on that day. And every husband stands at the altar on that day with good intentions to love this woman. But the problem is that she isn’t always radiant. Sometimes she is less than radiant, but Christ didn’t love us because we were radiant, He loved us to make us radiant. Men, you are called to love your wife and to make sacrifices in order to help her be more radiant—to work hard to love her so that you might one day present your wife to Jesus as your life’s work.
Husbands, we are called to have an agenda in our marriages. We make plans for everything else but seem to fall short in creating agendas for our marriages. Your agenda for your wife is the same as Jesus’s agenda—to make her holy and blameless, to make her more like Jesus.
Be intentional and initiate. You initiate reconciliation after an argument, you initiate conversations about how to manage your finances, you initiate going on a date, you initiate spiritual conversations, you initiate sexual intimacy and on and on I could go. Don’t put this weight on your wife. It is yours to bear because Jesus initiated everything with His bride. He didn’t wait on us. And initiate words that bless and encourage her. Do you realize that the Bible opens in Genesis 1 & 2 with God bringing Eve to Adam, and Adam bursting into song? He bursts into a love poem, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23 ESV).
Don’t forget they’re both naked. So here’s how the Bible starts: with a naked man singing love songs over a naked woman in the presence of God. That’s just the start! Men, rejoice in the wife that God has given you. Sing over her and for the 95% of you that are just wigged out by that, well then, go buy her a card.
So husbands, how do we do get started in loving our wives?
Remember the context of this entire chapter starts in Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
The only way that you will be able to love one another is by first recognizing that you’ve been perfectly loved by God. Without receiving God’s love, there’s no way you will ever love through thick and thin, through conflicts and reconciliations, through times of difficulty, discouragement or sickness, or during those times in which your spouse is not being the spouse she should be. Husband, you love your wife because you are first beloved.
There is no other relationship in all of creation like marriage. Husbands and wives have the distinct honor of being a living, breathing example of how Jesus and His church relate to one another. It is a great gift and responsibility. Your primary goal is not a great marriage, but it is to have a great marriage in order to display our great God! May God use our marriages for that end.