Husbands--Love Your Wives as Christ Loved the Church!
O Lord God, You identified love as the greatest of Christian virtues. Yet we must confess that we do not love one another as You have commanded us to do. Please forgive our selfish disobedience. Cleanse us of our sins through the precious blood of Your dear Son, Jesus. Grant us the grace to strive to love others as You have loved us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Abraham went to great lengths to secure a godly wife for his son, Isaac. When Moses, under the inspiration of the Spirit, describes Isaac’s attitude toward his new wife, he uses one word—the most important word—“love.” Husbands, to “love” your wives is the greatest responsibility you have in marriage.
Love is the greatest of Christian virtues. St. Paul here defines its characteristics and so describes what is to be the character of every Christian life. As husbands seek to love their wives, no better definition of love can be found in all of literature. Love in this way and you will love your wives as Christ loved the church!
Before his death, Jesus gave His disciples of all ages one command, “Love one another as I have loved you.” St. Paul, under the Spirit’s inspiration, takes this general command and applies it specifically to husbands. The responsibility to the husband is to love his wife as Christ has loved him!
Text: Ephesians 5:25,28-29,33a
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it…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…Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself.
In Christ Jesus, Who gives husbands the responsibility of loving their wives, dear fellow redeemed:
God’s various commandments serve three purposes in our lives as His children. First and foremost, all of God’s commandments serve as a “mirror” reflecting our failures—our sins. While this may sound negative, this function of God’s commandments is absolutely essential. It is only when we see our failures and sins and understand that in view of them we deserve God’s eternal judgment, that we will both understand our need for and desire God’s plan of salvation through our Savior, Jesus. Secondly, all of God’s commandments serve to “curb” our sinful flesh from openly sinning when it wants to sin. At times we have the urge to sin, and it is then that God’s commandments step forward and reminds us, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4b). That sharp message from God’s law should cause us to hesitate and to stop doing what is wrong. Thirdly, all of God’s commandments are intended to serve as a “guide” showing us what is right in God’s eyes and expected in our sanctified lives.
Today in our continuing series on Christian marriage, we want to consider just one of God’s commandments. Regarding the responsibility of husbands over against wives in marriage, the Bible commands us husbands—and that is not too strong of a word for St. Paul uses an imperative when he speaks—“love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church!” That commandment, just like any other in the Bible, serves the three purposes I just outlined. It shows us our sins, for which of us husbands can honestly say that we have always and under all circumstances loved our wives in the same way and to the same extent that Jesus has loved the Church? We need God's forgiveness, for we have failed to love as we ought. This commandment also serves to curb our flesh. When we lose our tempers and are tempted to say or do things to our wives contrary to God’s will, it should stand there as a stop sign with cautionary lights flashing. But is also should serve to guide us in our relationships. It is this purpose of our God’s command that we want to explore today. When St. Paul commands husbands to love their wives, he is talking about a very powerful form of love. He is not talking about a mere friendship type of love, or about physically making love, although both of these are part of marriage. Rather he is talking about a love of understanding and purpose. He is talking about a love which identifies needs and seeks purpose-fully to meet those needs in the best possible way. This is how St. Paul commands husbands to love their wives. Yes, HUSBANDS—LOVE YOUR WIVES AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH!
Do so, first of all, unconditionally just as Christ did! God wants husbands to love their wives with an unconditional love—that is a love irrespective of any and all circumstances. Husbands are not to love their wives, because their wives are always lovable, for at times they may not be. Husbands are not to love their wives, because they deserve to be loved, for at times they may not seem to deserve love. Husbands are not to love their wives, if their wives are kind and good and loving in return. They are to love them even if they are not! Husbands are not to love their wives, because they are beautiful, or talented, or devoted. They are to love them even when they are not! The love, that God commands husbands to have towards their wives, is to be unconditional, just like that of Jesus Himself! Oh, yes, it must be said that it is easier to love someone who is lovable, who is kind, who is helpful—but such attributes are not to be a condition for the husband’s love.
God our heavenly Father and Jesus our beloved Savior did not love us, because we were lovable. The Bible, on the contrary, informs us that by nature we are God’s enemies (cf. Romans 8:7). He did not enter this world to save us, because we were worthy of His love. The Bible, on the contrary, tells us that, “when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Yet, God saw our need and responded by calling upon His own dear Son to enter this world of sin, to live the perfect life we all need to enter heaven’s doors, and then to take upon Himself our sins and to die on the cross. Yes, Jesus saw our need and willingly submitted Himself to His heavenly Father so that our need might be met and we might enjoy the gifts of forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation. It is that unconditional love of Jesus, which is to be the pattern for our love as husbands.
Secondly, husbands love your wives sacrificially just as Christ did! St. Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Jesus gave Himself for the Church—He sacrificed Himself for us. St. Paul put it this way to the Corinthians, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (Remember that “grace” is “undeserved” love!), that though He was rich, yet for yours sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus is the Son of the one and only God! He sat on heaven’s throne and possesses all things. Yet, He gave those things up and took on our human flesh to serve us. I read in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated that Derek Jetter, the shortstop for the New York Yankees and MVP in the recent World Series, is being treated like a king in New York. Jesus is our heavenly king, yet as He Himself explained, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Think about the decision Jesus made in the Garden of Gethsemane not to run away, but rather to allow the will of the Father to be fulfilled through His capture, arrest, and crucifixion. There was no thought of self-interest there. Jesus’ decision was motivated by sacrificial love!
This is the example of love that husbands are to follow, and it is not always easy! It requires discipline, for it requires looking beyond our own temporal wants or needs and considering those of our wives as primary in our decision making. Permit an example. Some years ago just prior to a wedding I was visiting with the groom. He commented on two muscle cars, which were parked in front of the church. He said that one of them was his gift to his bride. It was one of two muscle cars that he owned. He had paid cash for his “toys,” as he described them, but he said that he now knew that as a married man his priorities would have to change. He couldn’t just go out and buy a car if he wanted to, because he now would have greater responsibilities for his wife and God-willing his future family. In contrast the other muscle car was owned by one of his groomsmen. The man had bought the car of credit and blown out the engine on the first day he owned the vehicle. He had then gone out and purchased another engine on credit. He was in debt to the tune of $20,000 dollars at 18%. He was also married and had a small child. The groom commented that he just couldn’t understand such irresponsibility. Husbands—whether we are talking finance, or time-management, or any other area, God has commanded us to love our wives sacrificially.
He has also commanded us husbands to love our wives continuously! The Greek language in which our New Testaments are written is a very precise language. By adding certain letters to or taking them away from individual words you can tells exactly what the author had in mind. Now when St. Paul tells us husbands “to love” our wives, how often did he intend that we do that? Did he mean for us to love them every now and then? Did he mean to love them regularly, like at least once every week or every other day? The Greek word used implies an ongoing action—a continuous action of loving. From the moment you say, “I do,” until the moment one of you dies, you are always to be in the state of loving your wife! When you’ve had a bad day at the office, God still says, “Love your wife!” When you aren’t feeling good, God still says, “Love your wife!” When your wife isn’t too cooperative and isn’t very loving in return, God still says, “Love your wife!” God’s command says that we husbands are always to be in a state of loving our wives. Keep on loving them day in and day out! Is that going to be easy? Of course not! Is that even possible? Given our sinful flesh, no it is not—yet that is what God desires, and that is the type of love for which we husbands should strive, for it is the nature of the love Jesus Christ has for us! Imagine what it would be like for us to live in a situation where Jesus would one day love us and the next simply tell us to get away because He wasn’t feeling good!
God has ordained that the husband is to establish the emotional atmosphere within a marriage, for he has been commanded to love, while his wife has be commanded to submit herself to his leadership and honor him. There is a very near and dear friend of our family who has had a rather difficult marriage at times. She commented once that God had made it relatively simple for a woman in marriage, but rather difficult for a man. She explained that all she had to do was submit, while he had to love—the one being much more difficult than the other!
Finally, may we as husbands all love our wives effectively as Jesus did and still does! St. Paul commands us husbands to love our wives as we love ourselves. Just as we nurture and cherish our own bodies, we are to nurture and cherish our wives for within marriage husbands and wives are one flesh. Consequently, when we love our wives we are, in fact, loving ourselves! St. Paul’s words are very instructive at this point and it is imperative that husbands understand what he is saying. The love that we have for our wives is not to be a love, which we alone feel and which remains in our hearts bringing us joy. Rather it is a love that we must take out of our hearts and convey to our wives in a meaningful way, so that they feel “nourished” and “cherished.”
Husbands, when our bodies are hurting, we feel that and we do something to remedy the situation. If our heads hurt, we take aspirin. If our muscles ache, we rub in some Icy Hot. We take measures, which bring relief, and we know we have succeeded when we feel better! In the same way we are to strive both to understand and honor our wives with our love (cf. 1 Peter 3:7), so that when they are hurting, when they are frustrated, when they are fearful—our love will come to them and make them better. Effective marital love is not a matter of my feeling loving, but my wife feeling loved! Gentlemen—in this area many of us are failing!
I recall a story, which I have used before in sermons, but permit me to use it again. A couple came to see their pastor and the problem was that the wife did not feel loved. After listening, the pastor finally asked the husband, “Do you still love your wife?” The husband replied, “Pastor, I told my wife on the day I married her that I loved her, and until I tell her differently, that statement stands!” My dear friends, this man was not fulfilling his marital responsibility! God commands husbands to love effectively—to nourish and cherish their wives, for God know that this is the one thing above all that they need. Now, love can be expressed in different ways, but it is also received in different ways. The important thing, therefore, is for husbands to find ways of expressing their love, which are meaningful for their wives. If I am the strong, silent type, but my wives needs to hear the words, then as a God-fearing husband, I will strive to be an eloquent as I possibly can in expressing my love. If I am a good talker, but my wife feels real love is in the proof of the pudding and she needs some help around the house, then I will roll up my sleeves and dive in to demonstrate that my words are meaningful!
My dear friends, and especially my fellow Christian husbands, may we listen to our God’s command, repent of our failures, and then assume our responsibilities. Let us love our wives unconditionally, sacrificially, continuously, and effectively even as Jesus has loved us! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting