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