Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of 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.
Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)
To express the sanctity of a man’s relationship with his wife, Paul used the impeccable example of Christ in relation to his bride; the church. No better model exists that portrays the manner in which a husband should love his wife than that of the love Christ demonstrated toward his church.
The heart of the gospel message is that Christ, because of the great love he had for his church, gave himself in death to save her (Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14). Neither outward appearance nor personal accomplishment made the church deserving of Christ’s sacrifice. In fact the opposite was true. Before Jesus saved his church she was dead in sins, followers of Satan, passionate for evil desires and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV) No merit on the part of the church earned the sacrificial love that Christ demonstrated by giving his life (Titus 3:5).
C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves, “The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church—read on—and gave his life for her (Eph. V, 25). The headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him—is, in her own mere nature—least loveable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely.”
It is according to Christ’s pattern that Paul instructs husbands to love their lives. The love a husband has for his wife is not contingent upon attractiveness, personality, accomplishments or prestige. All of those can be taken away in a moment. And should they be, the command for the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church would still be the same.
A husband should have a sacrificial love for his wife. Sacrificial love is not based on merit and is ready to meet needs regardless of the cost. Paul wrote that even though Jesus was equal with God he emptied himself, became a servant and humbled himself to die (Philippians 2:5-9). So it is with a husband toward his wife. A husband should place the needs of his wife above his own and humble himself to serve her. A husband’s service to his wife includes leading, teaching, listening and providing for her needs.
Doubtful it is possible, as sinful as humans are, that a husband in his own strength could love his wife as perfectly as Christ loved his church. However, the Christian husband has a helper; the Spirit of Christ that lives in him (Romans 8:9). The husband that is filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) has the nature of Christ and is enabled by the Spirit to love his wife as Christ loved the church.
Husband, do you love your wife as Christ loved the church?
Scriptures for meditation:
1 Peter 3:1