Husbands: love your wives. Those words are probably not too profound in today’s world are they? In previous centuries, marriage was more about an arrangement of ideals or goals than about love. Think of kings marrying the daughters of their counterparts in other kingdoms, but to a lesser degree and you get an idea of what marriage was, at least in part. As children, we sang the song: ________ and _______ sitting in a tree, k. i. s. s. i. n. g. First comes loves, then comes marriage, then comes _________ in a baby carriage. But if that song had been sung just a couple of centuries ago, marriage would have preceded love. So these were profound words in Paul’s day.
Today, we don’t see difficulty in saying, “Bob, you need to love your wife.” After all, isn’t that why they married in the first place? And therein lies the problem. He loved her, so he married her. It almost is as if we’ve separated the two into feeling and action. Rather than “he loved her, so he married her,” shouldn’t it be more like, “he loved her by marrying her?” Love is not simply a feeling; it is an action. I’ve known that since my childhood when D. C. Talk rapped that “Luv is a Verb.” You probably have heard it too, but it is so easy to keep falling back into the emotional love rather than the active love that Paul calls us to.
Look closely at what Paul really said, because hearing, “husbands: love your wives,” isn’t mind-blowing today, but the way in which we are to love them is. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV). That is mind-blowing. It may not be if you’ve grown up with these words, but let them go down like a flushed cherry-bomb. There is no sentimentality there. Only a call to action. That isn’t to say that within the action there can’t be sentimentality, but it isn’t the basis of the calling. We are called to love as Christ loved the church, by giving himself up for her.
If we were to pair this verse with Philippians 2:7, this becomes life-changing for both husband and wife. “[Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,” (ESV). Jesus, the second Person in the Godhead, humbled Himself for the sake of the church. He came to be a servant–to serve and not be served. Hence, we read Paul saying that the husband should, “nourish and cherish” his wife “just as Christ does the church.”
My wife has an amazing servant’s heart. In many ways, she is more like Jesus in this area than I. Yet, it is my calling–my high-calling–to love her in a self-sacrificing, servant-hearted manner. As husbands then, we are to serve by doing menial jobs (think foot-washing of John 14), like cleaning toilets, doing laundry, changing diapers, etc. Don’t know how? Learn. We have no problems studying up on how to have the perfect golf-swing or cast the perfect line or (if you’re a young whipper-snapper) win the latest video game. We learn about the things we want to do well. Do we not want to learn to love our wives well? Do we not want to learn to serve our wives (and families) well?
That also includes listening well, guys. Before Jesus left this world, he told His disciples that He would be with them always, even to the end of the age. Paul wrote that we call upon the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2). In other words, Jesus listens to His bride, the church (and makes intercession for her as well–Heb. 7:25). If Jesus is One who demonstrates love by listening to His bride, then we ought to as well. After all, we love not only as Christ loves the church, but as we love ourselves. Since we like to be listened to and not misunderstood, so we must listen and seek to understand our wives.
Brothers, this is a high-calling that we will inevitably be imperfect at. I promise you two things: 1. God is gracious and forgiving; our failures will not diminish that grace or forgiveness. 2. If we seek to actively love our wives in such ways, when we fail, they too will be gracious toward us. Our wives will simply be overjoyed that you are seeking to love them better.