At a recent men’s prayer breakfast at our church, I shared the following devotion. I share a brief outline from it with you in hopes that all husbands everywhere might be stirred up to, or renewed in, their determination to love their wives with Christ-reflecting purity and power.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word… In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:25-30
What does it mean for a husband to love his wife like Christ loves the church? Thankfully, Paul does not leave us to guess as the practical application of such an exalted exhortation. Paul indicates that imitating Christ in one’s marriage will necessarily involve certain key elements.
1. Love – “Husbands, love your wives”
It may seem like this goes without saying, yet it definitely does not. Do you love your wife? Is your love in word only, or in deed? What loving deeds have you done this week?
Going to work can be an act of love, but is not necessarily so. Mowing the lawn may be a service of love, but is not necessarily so. What was your motivation as you did these things? Were these efforts actually undertaken out of love for your wife, or just to escape the house, get away from the kids, and leave it to your wife to keep things running smoothly there?
When was the last time you did more than just service projects, but carefully thought out and executed a romantic, enjoyable (for her!) moment with your wife? Have you actively fostered a spiritual, emotional, and physical attachment to her and appreciation for her?
2. Sacrifice – Jesus “gave himself for” his bride
Could you describe your actions toward your wife as “sacrificial”? Do you give up your own pleasure, time, energy, or interests to help and please her?
Christ gave everything, his very self, for his bride the Church. Does that approach toward marriage inspire you, or terrify you? Have you developed the habit of putting your wife’s needs in front of your own? Jesus did this every day that he walked this earth!
3. Leadership – “that He might sanctify her”
You are a steward of your home, your marriage, your children. You are responsible before God for how you handle such valuable assets that he has entrusted to your leadership and oversight.
Jesus will give a perfect account for those put under his care. What kind of account will you give for those put under you care? It is true that you cannot make your family follow your leading or example, but you can and must guide them in the right way.
4. Service – Jesus nourishes and cherishes his bride
Do you nourish your wife? Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually?
Do you cherish your wife? “Keep her warm” from the cold blasts of the world?
5. Faithfulness – love your wife as you love your own body
Regardless of ways you may wish to change your body, you love it, you nurture it, you feed it, you strive to please it—we are all by nature hedonists. Do you give the same single-minded attention and effort to your wife?
As of 2003, there were 1.3 million pornographic websites, including 260 million pages. The total pornography revenue for 2006 was estimated at $13.3 billion in the U.S. alone, $97 billion worldwide. More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month.
This kind of behavior is not loyal to your wife, as you covenanted to be. It is not faithfully loving your wife as you love your own body.
6. Sanctifying influence – that he might “sanctify” and “cleanse” her
Are you the primary sanctifying influence in your home? Or does she have to turn off the TV, initiate family devotions, suggest visiting and helping others?
Which of you reads your Bible more? Which of you spends more time in prayer? Which of you is more careful to guard the eyes, ears, and hearts of your children?
To be loving your wife, and sanctifying your home, you must be in the Word of God yourself; you must be on your knees before God daily.
7. Pleasure – “He who loves his wife loves himself”
Like all of God’s good ways, we actually find the greatest pleasure in doing things according to his wisdom. The one who is willing to sacrificially and faithfully love, and lead, and serve his wife will discover far greater happiness in marriage than the one who seeks his own selfish way in the relationship.
There is nothing better for you than pouring yourself into your marriage. As you do so, not only does your wife prosper and flourish, but so does your own soul. There is simply nothing more satisfying or healthy than imitating Christ. Even though it will cost you everything.