“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25).
Paul had a vision of the church, the new humanity of Christ, that solved the ills of the world. As he spanned the globe in his mind’s eye, Paul saw that women, children, and slaves throughout the Roman empire were hurting, just as they often hurt today. He knew the new civilization of the church could help every category. In Ephesians, Paul wrote to Christian husbands, fathers, and masters, urging them to walk out their faith for the betterment of those in their care.
The first relationship Paul dealt with was the marriage relationship. Paul urged husbands to do something which was so uncustomary in that era — love your wives as Christ loved the church. His plea was not for a flimsy or fleeting love, but for a strong and sacrificial one. His focus was not on remembering your anniversary for your wife but remembering to die for your wife.
How can a husband love sacrificially? Again, Paul held our Christ as our model of this ‘agape’ love. How does Jesus sacrificially love His church?
1 Leave your position of comfort.
Jesus set aside the privileges of His divinity. Surely we can set aside the remote control. Jesus left His position of comfort, taking on manhood for us. There are times we must allow ourselves to become uncomfortable for our wives. Think of your finances, for instance. A man has different financial priorities than his bride. While you might be convinced that seventy-inch TV is a good investment, she might not. With our time and treasure and toys, we must realize part of being a husband is getting outside our comforts and into hers.
Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ incarnated for humanity. He became one of us so that He could become one with us. No husband can become a woman, but all husbands are to seek to live with their wives in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). We are to seek to know and learn and comprehend what our wives are about. Get into what she is into. Listen. Through the years, learn about this person you are married to.
3 Love who she isn’t.
Jesus loved a church that was not yet in existence. When he looked at Peter and James and John, He saw what they would become. He was not hung up on their imperfections, but their future glory. Perhaps a marriage or two would be strengthened by ceasing to focus on the flaw in your spouse. Instead, realize Christ is not done with them. Nor is He done with you. As you patiently love and serve one another, watch how Christ changes and transforms you, maturing you into the fuller version of who He’s designed you to be.
4 Spend time with her.
Jesus spent vast amounts of time with His disciples. Believers have struggled with the counter-intuitive nature of His discipleship program ever since. We would like to accomplish what He accomplished in making disciples, but only if it can fit into a forty-five-minute class, once per week, for twelve weeks. But Jesus spent three years living with His disciples. That was His program. Lay down your life by spending time with your bride. Life can be hectic, busy, and tiresome, so work hard to protect times together, even when you are tired. Dates, trips, and end-of-the-day-conversations are good medicine for your marriage.
5 Die for her.
Jesus was born to die. His birth in Bethlehem lowered Him, but it was not His lowest point. He would be despised and rejected, eventually dying. But not just any death, the humiliating death of the cross. Marriages are filled with life, and life is filled with pain. You are called to love your wife through the hardships of wayward children, infertility, mental illness, sins, and financial catastrophe. Stand for her. Give yourself to her. In the death is resurrection life.
All too quickly people say, “What the world needs is (you fill in the blank).” But could we not admit that the world needs men who will love a woman in this way? “O Lord, help us to emulate you. Pump your life and breath and heart into ours. Help us to sacrificially love, as you did for us, the wife you have given to us.”