When the Bible says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25), what does it really mean?

Lately I have seen a lot (and I do mean a LOT!) of posts having to do with the Biblical submission of wives in Christian marriages. Eph 5:22 simply says “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Follow-up verses 23 and 24 expound on this command to wives a bit more, clarifying God’s intent for the husband & wife roles. This is a good thing, in that God determined the roles of the husband and the wife Himself, and He expects us to live within them. But what about the other side of that coin? The side that says “Husbands, LOVE your wives…” Strangely, I haven’t seen quite as much written about this side of the marriage relationship – at least not in the blogging world. I am not saying it doesn’t exist… Just that I haven’t seen near as much about it as I have about the wife’s responsibilities.

In general, I believe that the majority of men who have walked any length of time as a Christian will at least have an inkling of what is meant by “love your wives” as was intended when this section was written. I also believe that many of these men will spend their lives searching God’s Word (some more than others) to get better at the job that God gave them as husbands. Still however, there are plenty of men out there who use God’s command to wives in Eph 5:22 as a basis from which to be authoritarians and dictators over their wives, while at the same time completely disregarding God’s command to themselves in Eph 5:25. And I believe that God’s heart is deeply grieved by this sinful behavior.

The entire section, which consists of Ephesians 5:22-33, reads as follows: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

There is already plenty out there on what Eph 5:22 means, so my goal for this post is to concentrate on Eph 5:25. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Let’s begin by defining what love IS, and what love is NOT. Biblical love is not warm mushy feelings, physical attraction, or loving words without any actions to underline them. The best description of biblical love I’ve ever seen appears on page 106 of “The Exemplary Husband” by Stuart Scott. It reads: A selfless and enduring commitment of the will to care about and benefit another person by righteous, truthful, and compassionate thoughts, words and actions.

Brothers… as husbands, these are our marching orders. Christ’s love is perfect. And He has never been, nor will He ever be, a tyrannical jerk. But I DO know there are some husbands that lean that way! In this life, we can neither achieve nor duplicate the perfected love of our Savior. BUT… the longer we walk & fellowship together with Jesus, and with our wife, the more our love should consistently be growing and improving.  1 Thess 3:12-13 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

Even though the man is given the responsibility of leadership over the home and the marriage relationship, it is indeed a limited authority. There are some husbands who wrongly believe they have the right to do anything they wish, or to command their wives to fulfill their every whim. The truth is that we are men UNDER authority – God’s unlimited authority. Our every request must be considered through this lens: “Would God ask ME to do what I am requiring of my wife right now?” We cannot righteously command our wives to sin, nor should we want to.  God WILL hold us accountable for our leadership, so we must honor Him with every decision we make. 1 Cor 16:13-14 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.

Below are the qualities of a church leader, but really only one of these items is specific to a church leader (“able to teach”). The rest of these characteristics should be worn by ALL Christian men. 1Tim 3:2-5  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)

Lording our authority over our wives will only cause them to become embittered against us. Husband, is that truly what you want to happen? I especially appreciate how the NLT Bible version presents Col 3:19: “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Do you want your wife to grudgingly wait on you out of bitterness and fear? 1 Peter 5:2-4 says: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Gentlemen, I implore you… love your wives as Christ loved the church! When you do this, you are giving your wife a Godly man to SUBMIT TO! As you sir, submit yourself to Christ, the safe & protected environment you provide your wife (under God’s perfect authority) will allow her to grow and flourish in her role as a Biblically submitted wife. Wouldn’t you rather have a wife who HAPPILY serves you (and her family) from a heart overflowing with love and respect? The choice is completely yours, and as it says above in 1 Peter 5:4, God will honor the correct one.

What are some ways you might consider “loving your wife as Christ loved the church?” Please comment below for everyone to see!

Image used with permission from Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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23 thoughts on “As Christ Loved The Church

  1. Rena Gunther says:

    This just about made me cry.

    The reason the church will so readily submit to Christ is indeed because He loved her enough to die for her. He first gave Himself to her.

    I cannot thank you enough for standing for truth.
    Rena Gunther recently posted…Rockin’ my world for 14 years and counting . . .My Profile

    1. Jason says:

      Thanks Rena! It’s amazing how many men I’ve heard make the claim, “I’d take a bullet for her in a heartbeat!” If that’s really true, then vacuuming the living room must be a fate WORSE than death – because far fewer men would grab that vacuum for 10 minutes after they get home from a rough day at the office!

      I’ve done that vacuuming (dishes, trash removal, etc.), and I’ve been guilty of NOT doing it too. I’m trying now to be a better man than that, and I thank God for my grace-filled Tiffani, who loves me in spite of my MANY faults.

      I will never forget the pastor who (years ago) I heard him say from the pulpit… “YES, men! I AM King of MY castle! I RULE IT ALL! That vacuum cleaner is MINE! And I can run it ANYTIME I WANT TO!” I absolutely LOVED it! and I will never forget it in this lifetime! May I aspire to BE that kind of king!

      HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to you and your hubby! I raise my Diet Coke in a toast to you both!

      ps. for those of you who are confused by that Diet Coke reference… see Rena’s post at http://www.insertgracehere.com/2012/04/rockin-my-world-for-14-years-and-counting

  2. April says:

    Jason – thank you SO much for presenting the husbands’ side of the equation. I write for wives about respect and submission – and it is a bitter pill for a wife to swallow those concepts unless her husband is providing safe, loving, selfless, Christ-like leadership. I believe God can and does use one spouse’s obedience of Ephesians 5:22-33 to bring the other one into obedience many times. But how much BETTER when BOTH spouses are committed to obeying God’s word.
    I love the “lense” you talked about – “Would God ask me to do what I am requiring of my wife?”
    Thank you for the encouragement for husbands! The more that husbands can follow the example of Christ – the more loved their wives feel – the easier it will be for wives to submit and to respect and EVERYONE WINS!
    April recently posted…But He Just Doesn’t Deserve My Respect!!!My Profile

    1. Jason says:

      Thank you April!

  3. Alecia says:

    Great post Jason! We too have seen far too many men walking in their marriages and twisting or misusing this scripture and not truly biblically loving their wives. That love takes selflessness and humility. Can we even imagine what it took for Jesus to leave all he had in paradise to come to earth and do what he did? Amazing. And I LOVED the quote, “Would God ask ME to do what I’m asking of my wife right now?”

    1. Jason says:

      Thanks Alecia!

  4. chuck says:

    I read the post, and I see that the ++ comments are from women, and I think I can see why. You, like many writers today, want to put men UNDER women, and that is just fine with women.

    You say that men have LIMITED authority, but ignore the fact that it is an authority, nonetheless. It appears that what you are setting forth is the popular servant-lover mentality that not only encourages men to serve their wives through submission. In her book, Is That All He Thinks About, Marla Taviano tells of a conversation with a woman who griped about her husband and marriage, saying “I didn’t get married so I could serve some man.” In talking with the woman, Taviano discovered that what the woman really wanted was a man to serve her. Mark Gungor tells how he is always getting wives coming up to him at his marriage conferences asking how to get their husbands to do what they tell him to do – in other words, “Make him obey me.” And it seems that your post fits right into that model.

    1. Jason says:

      Hello Chuck,

      I really have to ask… did you actually READ the post? Or did you skim it for certain keywords, and then base your incorrect assumptions on the use of those words? The accusations you throw here talk about some sort of limp-wristed, wussified leadership that is 100% unBiblical at its’ core. I do not teach OR condone anything of the sort. I also do not subscribe to the currently popular and trendy teaching of “mutual submission” either. I believe God’s Word has made itself crystal clear in the Ephesians text above… The husband submits to Christ as his ultimate authority, and his wife is in submission to her husband. That’s it, bottom line.

      I have never heard of Marla Taviano, but I do know of women who hold the attitude she apparently mentioned in the book you spoke of. That attitude is completely wrong, and grieves God. Nothing I said in my article above condones this sort of behavior from women.

      You mention my point about our authority being limited – and then claim I somehow ignore it altogether. That’s an interesting statement. God IS the total and complete authority, and HE Himself granted men their authority in the household… by that fact alone, our authority is limited. Our authority will NEVER be equal to God’s, nor will it ever eclipse it. Do you disagree with that? If so, you put yourself in the very dangerous position of calling yourself equal to God. That sir, is blasphemy. Yes, I’ve called it what it is.

      Jesus never lambasted or browbeat His disciples into doing what He wanted them to do. And I’m sorry if this goes against what you seem to believe, but I don’t find ANYWHERE in God’s Word where He commands us to do that to our wives either. No, His command is to LOVE. Love at times involves correction. I have corrected my wife when it has been necessary. And because I have loved her in the process, she receives it with grace and humility. Have I always done it perfectly? Of course not. And THAT is where I need the grace and forgiveness of my Savior, Jesus. He corrects me, He loves me – and He has NEVER been harsh with me.

    2. Brad says:

      I will agree with you that it is typical to find only two levels of information on this subject, either completly dominating husbands, or completly weak ones. However, I think that your reaction is interesting when this posts only quotes the expectation to, “Love your Wife like Christ loves the Church.” 

      I’m wondering if your thinking this implies a weak husband is because you have a feminized picture of Christ. In the past few decades the church, especially in America has painted a picture of Jesus that more closely represents the characteristics we picture in women (tender, caring, compassionate). With only this picture of Christ I can see how the command to love like him could be seen as weak.  Fortunately, this is not the only aspects of Christ! 

      Jesus was not a wimpy guy! Yes he loved with compassion, but it was fierce compassion! Yes he was tender to the woman caught in adultery for example, but at the time he was being tender to her he was being very defiantly strong to everyone else. Loving like Jesus is NOT a wimpy command!

      I know that when I take this command seriously I find myself feeling more “manly” then ever. I recently wrote about the responsibility that comes with Biblical roles in marriage in a post I called Submission Equals Responsibility. I wrote it because I find that reading this same passage reminds me that it is my responsibility to step up to the plate and be a MAN!

      1. I’m with Brad on this. Jesus was clearly all about serving – so much so that Peter was offend when Jesus wanted to wash his feet (a modern equivalent might be Jesus cleaning out your septic tank!)

        Jesus, and Paul, and all the rest, were very clear that we are to practice SERVANT leadership. If we are not doing that, we are not doing what we have been commanded to do!

        However, that does not make a leader a wimp, and it does not mean the leader just waits for those he leads to ask for something. Servant leadership is about serving in the way that is needed, not in the way that is desired. There is huge difference between the two.
        Paul H. Byerly recently posted…Stop settling!My Profile

  5. Alecia says:

    I Love that a man wrote about loving his wife, and what that looks like. Right now my husband and I are reading through Love and Respect. It’s about the woman’s need to be loved and the man’s need to be respected. When a woman isn’t feeling loved she withholds the respect the man craves and vice versus. It starts a crazy cycle.
    I think you hit the nail on the head with this article.
    Alecia recently posted…Four Of The Last Six!!My Profile

    1. Jason says:

      Thank you Alecia!

  6. Loved your post, Jason, but more importantly I LOVED your response to Chuck. Sorry, Chuck I fully disagree with what you have said. I am a wife and I fully understand that it is my husband’s responsibility to be the MAN in my marriage. I expect him to act like Jesus as much as any human being can, and yes, he falls short just like the rest of us. His role is to emulate Jesus, who was a servant-LEADER. My role as a wife is to submit and respect my husband whether he is loving me as Christ loved the church or not! I’m not going to sit around and wait for him to be obedient to the scriptures before I start submitting to him. When I die, I’ll stand before the Lord and give an account of my actions and I’m certainly not going to give Jesus the excuse that I chose not to submit to my husband because he didn’t love me well enough! That’s garbage and I don’t care to be the type of wife that makes excuses for not being obedient to the Word of God. The scriptures are VERY clear about our roles: He leads, the wife submits. Yes, it is that simple. Imagine if more marriages actually tried to emulate that which is laid out in the scriptures….they would bring Christ a whole lot more glory. For further thoughts on this, feel free to check out my post written by both my husband and myself titled, 3 Types of Husbands http://www.joleneengle.org/2012/01/3-types-of-husbands.html along with it’s counterpart, 3 Types of Wives http://www.joleneengle.org/2011/12/3-types-of-wives.html
    Jolene @ The Alabaster Jar recently posted…A Fulfilling Intimacy LifeMy Profile

    1. Jason says:

      Thank you Jolene! I’m not sure where Chuck got his ideas, but it didn’t come from what I wrote up top. I certainly don’t believe or teach that God wants husbands submitting to their wives… but they also shouldn’t be overbearing tyrants over them either. Colossians 3:19 is pretty clear on that point.

  7. Jason: Great post! It’s biblical, challenging, and inspiring. Thanks for writing about how a husband is supposed to love his wife.

    1. Jason says:

      Thanks Kevin! Glad to see you drop by!

  8. Nicole G says:

    “Gentlemen, I implore you… love your wives as Christ loved the church! When you do this, you are giving your wife a Godly man to SUBMIT TO! As you sir, submit yourself to Christ, the safe & protected environment you provide your wife (under God’s perfect authority) will allow her to grow and flourish in her role as a Biblically submitted wife. ”

    YES YES YES!!!!! Great post, Jason. Thank you for stepping up and giving the flip side to the submission discussion. It takes a strong man to love his wife as Christ loved the church!!
    Nicole G recently posted…When He Says He’s Not InterestedMy Profile

    1. Jason says:

      Thanks Nicole!

  9. Scott says:

    Excellent post. I definitely agree that this message needs to be trumpeted in the church. I focus on it A LOT in my blog for sure. I firmly believe that the bulk of marriage problems come from the failure of men to love and lead their wives in a Christ-like way, even though, as you say, we hear more about submission.

    And I agree totally with Brad and Paul’s response to Chuck. Jesus was definitely both very STRONG and very GOOD. these are not mutually exclusive!
    Scott recently posted…Foundations, Framework and FixturesMy Profile

  10. I’ve thought about this a lot recently and have come to this:

    In “loving the church and laying down His life for her,” Christ didn’t roll over and do what the church wanted (i.e., military protection from Rome). He also didn’t completely disregard what the church wanted in favor of what He wanted (i.e., “to have the cup pass from Him”). Jesus recognized what His will was (and I’m sure He knew what the church wanted), and sought to discover _GOD’s_ will in the situation. When the three things were in conflict, He set aside His own desires and did God’s will.

    And in that way, wives submit to their own husbands “as unto the Lord.” It’s two sides of the same coin – the husband is seeking and doing God’s will and the wife is submitting, not as a doormat to her husband, but as a servant to the Lord.

    That’s the perfect ideal. When it comes down to real life, however, we are each responsible only for our own obedience. Paul doesn’t say “wives submit IF your husbands love” or “husbands love IF your wives submit.” My job as a wife is to trust that God ordained my marriage and is at work in my husband’s life…and therefore, I need to submit to his authority over me. While I may do better with that on some days than others, my submission should not be contingent on his love.
    Melissa Jones recently posted…MommyBee DesignsMy Profile

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Melissa! You are absolutely right… it’s never an “I’ll do this IF he/she does that” situation. We are commanded to do our part, regardless of how the other spouse behaves.

      I wanted to highlight the command to the men mainly because too many men are at one extreme or the other… wimpy and afraid to LEAD; or iron-fisted – demanding submission from their wives while ignoring the command to LOVE them. We men apparently don’t instinctively know how to find that righteous middle ground and lead firmly, but lovingly.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  11. Jason, Thank you for encouraging husbands to lead according to the scriptural instructions in these verses — even though it is not easily done. Partner dance provides an interesting visualization of this leadership, and I address that in this blog post: http://wp.me/ppXmN-28

    I’m glad to find and connect with you via Twitter!


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