On the one hand, it is somewhat ironic that as Christian husbands the number one person we look to for marriage advice is a first-century single Jewish guy. No single guy I know of would be caught dead issuing marriage advice to a married brother. But on the other hand in Ephesians 5:23 Paul writes, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.” And after describing the relationship between a husband and wife Paul adds in verse 32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” So in a sense, Jesus does have a bride, his church.
Being a husband is one the single greatest callings a Christian man will have in his life. And his relationship with his wife the single most important earthly relationship. The way a man interacts with and loves his wife has a great deal to say about his character and his relationship with the Lord. And it is true, we do look to a first century single Jewish Rabbi for our marriage advice. It’s a good thing we do, because what we see when we look, if we follow it, has the power to transform our marriages for the rest of our lives.
A Beautiful Example
In Ephesians 5:25 Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” An eloquent yet succinct verse it’s fifteen words are packed with implications that take married men a lifetime to identify let alone regularly put into practice.
The command to love at the beginning of the verse, in and of itself is not altogether surprising. Any humanist, deist, Muslim or Hindu could assent to the simple command to love one’s wife as a rule to follow or at the very least an ideal to strive for. But the degree to which husbands are commanded to love their wives in this passage is what makes this verse so outrageous. Paul might as well have written, “Husbands love your wives, as love loves the very thing it loves the most.”
How did Christ love the church?
Many husbands, if given a hypothetical situation would probably say that they would die for their wives. That takes care of the, “and gave himself up for her,” part. Of course, the ultimate sacrifice that Christ was willing to pay in order to save and sanctify his bride, the church, is perhaps the pinnacle aspect of his display of love. But most husbands will not ever be in a situation where they literally have to die in order to save their wives. Therefore we also need to focus on the command to, “love your wives as Christ loved the church,” and the implications of it for the daily loving of our wives. To that end consider two ways Christ loved the church, which would include his disciples as they are part of his church. These two examples not only help us to see the degree to which Christ loved the church but also shed light on practical ways husbands can love their wives.
John 13:5, “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
When it comes to loving my wife nothing captures my attention more than Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. Jesus’ display of humility in being willing to stoop down, do the job that no one else was willing to do, and get his hands dirty, paints a picture that for Christian husbands should be more like a mirror. Usually, this verse is used to show how all Christians should seek to serve one another, and that is right, but we can also think in terms of Jesus relating to his church, his bride. When we do that, the nature of the role of husband shifts dramatically. Being a husband is not about having a wife who does your every beck and call, but rather is mainly defined by serving and doing the jobs that no one wants to do. This can be everything from doing the dishes to cleaning poop stains out of baby clothes.
Matthew 20:28, “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This is a more general statement about Jesus’ purpose, and it gives us insight into the thrust of his life and the heart attitude he brought into his relationship with his bride. He sought to serve others first, his bride first. Again this is a verse that we usually apply to every believer but when we apply it to husbands too, we can conceptualize what should be going on in the heart of a husband. With this mindset, a husband could ask himself “How can I serve my wife?” “What can I do for her today to make her feel better, healthier, happier?” “Is she getting the time with the Lord that she needs to thrive?” “If not what can I do to make that happen?”
These are only two verses. The list could go on and on. If every way Jesus loved his church were written down, all the blogs in the world could not contain them. Jesus showed time and again how he loved the church. And on top of that, he gave himself up for her.
Jesus’ love was not a response or a reaction to how his church, his followers felt about him. Jesus’ love was intentional. He was driven by his love. I want to be that kind of husband. I want to love my wife in this way. I am not there yet, and it might take time for me to get there. But if I understand my calling as a husband correctly, and look at the life of my first-century single Jewish savior, I will be on my way to loving my wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.