Greetings, brothers and sisters in Christ. What follows is meditation on Ephesians 5 regarding the responsibility–rather the privilege in marriage of being an earthly demonstration of a heavenly reality. The former being a husband’s love for his wife, and the latter the love of Christ for the church. This brief paper is in no way comprehensive, but reflects a few main points discussed from said passage. By way of disclaimer, the author admits that at the time of this writing he is, of yet, unmarried. However, growing up in a God-fearing home has provided great opportunity to see a godly marriage in action. The author would ask the reader to hold the words that follow up to the light of the Scripture and not against his lack of personal, practical experience. May the Lord be glorified and His people edified.
Love. There is perhaps no other concept like it in any language throughout the corners the world. The English language does the concept no justice in as much as one might with the very same word express their sentiments toward a spouse, children–and pizza. It’s really quite barbaric. The Greeks, with their six different words for love would have been mortified. How do we understand this concept we call “love”? What resources do we rely most upon to generate our understanding of the word, what it means to us, and how it should affect our actions? Is love a mainly passive sentiment, this is to say, is it something that “comes upon us” like the common cold? Perhaps it is a mysterious chasm that we simply “fall” into as Hollywood would like us to believe with their endless supply of chick flicks and romance stories. I mean, how many women see themselves as Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennet waiting for their Mr. Darcy? Or maybe we rely heavily on our taste of music to provide clarity about this concept of love. Pat Benatar would tell us love is a battlefield while Dolly Parton (had to dig deep for this one) sings that love is like a butterfly (seriously?). Country music would fill our heads with cut-off jeans, truck tailgates, and alcohol to create this magical experience called love. The point is, we all have our influences, and I would be lying to say that I have not had my share. What is important is that we understand the Biblical definition of love. After all, the Bible tells us that “God is love”–note that it does not say “love is God.” There are many attributes of God: holiness, righteousness, judgment, truth, mercy etc… but this concept we call love originates in God, and so it is important to go the fountain head, this is to say the source, if we are to understand what love is really all about. Now, it is not the scope of this note to examine this subject in any great detail, however, we would like to toe the water, so to speak, and look at a few verses out of the book of Ephesians as an encouragement to men in the various areas of their relationship with their wives wherein they are instructed to love–we will look only at the three (there are likely more) that appear to be present in our text. Notice God will ask nothing of us for which he does not first provide a pattern. He tells us to love, but only after demonstrating it in His own dealings with mankind.
Ephesians 5:21-33: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
“…as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” The first area of consideration is sacrificial love. “God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the love of God for us is the work of Christ at the cross. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him.” (I John 3:9) This notion we call love is strongly associated with a giving of self. If we are to take the work of Christ as our pattern, it involves:
- Observing a need without being told
- Recognizing that you have the ability to meet that need
- Caring enough for the person with that need to rise to the occasion in order to meet it.
- Giving of self, whatever the cost, to see that the need is met.
Love is sacrifice, and sacrifice is inherently uncomfortable, it is painful, and it is only natural to retract from such an experience. Sacrifice involves some measure of loss. If our actions that are to demonstrate love do not involve some measure of loss, then we have to ask if we are meeting the sacrificial aspect of love as seen in the Person and work of Christ.
And let us be clear on a point of great importance: you will notice that neither our text in Ephesians nor the reference in 1 John express the love of Christ as only seen at the cross. The Father sent the Son into the world, Christ gave Himself for us, but this was a daily sacrifice for 33 years as Christ yielded Himself to the will of the Father while denying His own will. In the same manner, sacrificial love is not a “one time only, I did my good deed for the day” kind of love. It is a continuous, daily sacrifice as a husband lays down his own will and exchanges it with that of his heavenly Father in order to demonstrate sacrificial love for his bride. Love is sacrifice.
“…so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.” The thought here relates to provision. The love a man demonstrates for his wife must involve providing for her physical needs. We are quite sensitive to the needs of our own bodies. For example, when we have pain, we seek to eliminate it or remove ourselves from the immediate cause. When we are hungry, we are consumed (note the pun) with the idea of food until we get it. Many examples could be listed, but the provided ones are sufficient to prove that we provide for the needs of our own physical body. In the same manner, a man should provide for the physical needs of his wife, and what is more, be sensitive to those needs and eager to meet them, similarly to how eager one can be to eat when they are hungry.
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) Believe it or not, God is quite concerned with men providing substantially for his household.
“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” If you haven’t noticed already, it is God’s intent for the marriage covenant that it mirror His relationship with the church–those believers who have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior collectively make up the church. The church is not a “bricks and sticks” concept, it is an organism, not an organization. When a person trusts Christ as their Savior, they are made part of the “body of Christ.” He is the heavenly head and believers are individually connected to Him and by extension to one another. As the head, He provides direction to the rest of the body on how to function. But back to our main point: when a man and woman join together in marriage, they are seen as one flesh: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” This goes a level deeper than physical provision. While we say that God provides for us physically, as a member of His body spiritually, He nourishes and cherishes us causing us to grow in our knowledge and understanding of who He is and our ability to obey Him and be like Him. He feeds us with the milk of His Word (I Peter 2:2) so that we may “grow up into Him in all things.” (Ephesians 4:15)
And so, like as Christ gives us Spiritual nourishment and guidance, so should a husband for his wife “as the Lord the church.” This word “cherish” comes from a Greek concept that means to soften by warming as birds covering their young with their feathers. I’m not sure words could improve upon that imagery. This is the relationship of a husband to his wife in the spiritual sense–protection, leadership, covering, and warmth.
In review, the love of a man for his wife is not a checklist of tasks to perform mechanically. It is an expression that flows out of a heart fully surrendered to the will of God having let go of his own will. It is motivated by an understanding that her need is my need, her pain is my pain, her fatigue is my fatigue, and so forth. It is not a one time act when, once accomplished, a man will forever love his wife the way he ought. It is a daily activity, a moment by moment consciousness, and most importantly, it can only happen as a result of supernatural empowerment . After all, we can’t expect to show the love of God without the God of love, could we?
Many more words could be said on the topic, and as previously stated, this is not by any means a comprehensive perspective on true love, but it does provide a glimpse into some practical components of love as we take God as our source, and the work of Christ as our example on the sacrificial, substantial, and spiritual elements of the love of God displayed for his church to be demonstrated by a man for his wife.