Editors note: This is a brand new series designed to help you love the Lord with all of your heart, mind and strength so you can love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39-40). The first post in this series was by Brian Hedges who wrote on Love and Spiritual Transformation. In the second post, Matthew Sims wrote on God So Loved. The third post in the series is by Matthew Fretwell who wrote on sharing love. The fourth post was written by Dave Jenkins on How To Love and Care for your Wife. Today Dave writes on Valentines Day, Love and the Gospel.
One of the most celebrated days among couples is Valentine’s Day. At the heart of Valentine’s is eros love. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary explains “Eros” this way: “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers, affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests, an assurance of love, warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration, a beloved person.”
Our society portrays eros love as the ideal man (for women) or the ideal woman (for men). Typically this ideal man is portrayed in various forms of media with a six pack, muscular figure and who has it all together. The ideal woman is skinny, curvy and busty. Love according to our society is about how we look and little about who we are or how we treat other people. Often people say, “I love you” but in reality they confuse love and lust. When you look at the ideal man or woman and think, “I want them and desire them or to be like them” you are not loving that person, conversely, you are operating in a spirit of lust. To be even more specific, you are engaging in adulterous thoughts and possibly actions if you follow through on those thoughts. Eros love on the other hand is designed by God to only be engaged within the parameters of a covenant marriage between a man and a woman.
Every year Valentine’s Day comes and goes with men buying their wives roses, taking them out to dinner, or some other romantic adventure. Many men view Valentine’s Day as the day to spoil their wives and treat them special. For many wives this is one of the only days a year that they will be treated this way. Unfortunately for many more women, Valentine’s Day is just one more day they are neglected by their husbands.
About a week ago I was doing some online research on what people think of love. What I found didn’t surprise me and it likely won’t shock you either. My research pointed conclusively to the fact that our secular culture confuses love for sex. Again, this shouldn’t shock us as this confusion gets to the heart of why our culture is experiencing in its eyes a “liberation” from its Judeo-Christian foundations. Do you believe that the foundation for love is sex? Or do you believe that the foundation for a healthy marriage is growing in an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ?
Christians are those who the Bible says have had the “love of God poured out upon their hearts” (Romans 5:5). We are called to “love one another” (John 13:35). Notably, Christians are told some fifty-four times in the New Testament to “one another” each other because they have experienced the love of Jesus. Loving God and loving others is the Great Commandment. Undergirding this Great Commandment is the fact that for Christians the love of God has taken their hearts of stone and replaced it with a new heart with new desires and new affections for King Jesus.
Moreover, Christian men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5), because Jesus has given them what they don’t deserve, namely mercy, grace, and His love instead of His wrath. This begs the question as to whether men consistently demonstrate the Gospel to their wives. After all, how we treat our wives is a reflection of what we really believe about the Gospel since Paul ties the institution of marriage with the Gospel in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Husbands, we are told to love our wives because Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Paul doesn’t just stop at this connection between Himself and marriage, but goes to explain the purpose of this connection: “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 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. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:26-33).
In this passage, Paul connects what Christ has done in His death, burial and resurrection with the Church. Christ not only died for the Church, but sanctified the Church “having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27).
Men, Paul makes it clear that believing the Gospel and having the love of Jesus poured out upon our hearts should result in love towards our wives. The Gospel is not the great suggestion. Once we believe the Gospel, we are to demonstrate Gospel like behavior. To follow Jesus is to follow Him in the way of death to ourselves, so that He may increase and we may decrease.
Valentine’s Day is just a day and as a day it comes and goes. With that said, when we married our wives, we signed up for life. Marriage is often treated today as if it is non-binding contract that can be rescinded whenever anyone feels like it. This idea that marriage is negotiable is a lie straight from the pit of hell. Paul links the institution of marriage with the Gospel, which means how we treat our wives has a direct bearing on our profession of the Gospel and our relationship with God.
The Gospel is superior in every way to Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is just a day, but the Gospel is the message that takes sinners with hearts of stone and replaces those hearts of stone with a completely new set of affections aimed at pursuing Christ in all of life. Christian men can only love their wives because Christ has first loved them. “Christian men” who abuse their wives by yelling at them, belittling them, and treating them poorly, demonstrate that they do not understand the mercy and grace Christ has shown to undeserving sinners. Paul says, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28). Paul makes it clear in verse 28 that Christian men; those who profess the Gospel should love their wives, not treat them poorly, also noting “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Eph. 5:29).
Valentine’s Day is just a day and like every day, we will either obey God or rebel against Him. Christ calls men to love and to reflect His love to their wives. Those who profess to be Christians and fail in this task, ultimately fail to grasp the depths from which Christ has delivered them. The Gospel compels us as men to treat our wives as Christ treats us with graciousness rather than harshness. The love of Jesus ought to compel us as Christian men to love our wives, because we have tasted of the grace of God in Christ and found it to be all-satisfying.
Men, if we have truly tasted of the grace of God in Christ, we must love our wives well. A lip service to profession of faith doesn’t justify bad behavior. If you’ve abused your wife with your words, emotionally or physically, then repent. Christian men out of all men ought to reflect the love of God, because of what God has done in their lives. Whatever you do men, don’t make Valentine’s Day just another day to demonstrate to your wife that you love her. Rather demonstrate you love her every day because you love Jesus.
Men, our wives want us to love them and the only way we can love them is to come to the God of all grace who saves and sanctifies a people for His own possession. If you’ve treated your wife poorly, repent. Whether you’ve reflected the love of God well to your wives or not, there is still room to grow and repent. I’ve been married to my wife seven years now and I will be the first to admit that I have much to learn as I strive to model repentance in my household. The Gospel calls us as men to model repentance before our wives and to demonstrate the Gospel we profess with our mouths and believe in our hearts. Men, let us model repentance well in our homes before our wives, children, and families by being the chief repenters in our home, so that we might take the Gospel first to our own homes and then to the nations to the glory of God.