“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)
That Paul does not have a brutal or tyrannical marriage relationship in mind when he exhorts the wife to submit to her husband is evident in this next section. The church is not slavishly following Christ, for He is ever loving and gentle and kind. The husband is to be the same, one who emulates the love of Jesus Christ. This love is to pour from his life just as Christ’s blood flowed on the cross. He is not to love his wife with a flimsy or fleeting love, but a strong and sacrificial one. He is to remember to die for his bride.
Jesus laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:11, 15, 18). Willingly, He endured for us. Isaiah prophesied of the Christ, that He would be despised, rejected, full of sorrows and grief, stricken, and smitten by God. He would be afflicted, wounded, chastised, oppressed, cut off, and crushed for His bride (Isaiah 53). The modern Christian husband is to allow Christ’s willingness and love and sacrifice to be the model for his love for his bride. So Paul urged husbands to do that which was uncustomary in that era — to sacrificially love their wives.
How can a husband love sacrificially? Again, Paul held our Christ as our template. How does Jesus sacrificially love His church?
A Christian husband should leave his position of comfort for his bride.
Jesus set aside the privileges of His divinity. Surely we can set aside the remote control. Jesus departed from His place 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 often has different financial priorities than his bride. If you're 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.
A Christian husband should incarnate for his bride.
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 should aim to know and learn and comprehend our wives. Get into what she is into. Listen. Through the years, learn about her.
A Christian husband should be patient with his bride.
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 still shaping 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 whom He’s designed you to be.
A Christian husband should spend time with his bride.
Jesus spent vast amounts of time with His disciples. Believers have struggled with the counter-intuitive nature of His discipleship program ever since. We want 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.
A Christian husband should die for his bride.
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 conjoin with life, and life conjoins 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.