Each husband should recognise that pleasing God is his supreme responsibility. A well-meaning husband may think that his goal is to please his wife. However, if he makes this his supreme objective he will likely fail to attain it. Determining to please God will ensure a far healthier relationship and, hopefully, a far happier wife.
In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, God’s design for marriage is summarised in two appeals:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:22,25).
Both of these appeals show that God’s goal for any husband is Christlikeness. A husband must lead like Christ and love like Christ. There has never been a more protective Leader or more sacrificial Lover than the Lord. The standard is high.
Lead like Christ
Wives are instructed, “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (v.22). Why? Because “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (v.23). The husband has been given a position of authority comparable to that which Christ holds in respect of the church; He is the Leader, and the church submits to His authority.
What form does Christ’s leadership take? He who is the “head of the church” is also called “the Saviour of the body” (v.23). In other words, Christ’s position of authority is utilised for the protection of His own people. This is the leadership a husband should demonstrate in marriage.
Leading like Christ is not being oppressive or dictatorial. Leading like Christ is not using another person simply for selfish gratification. The Lord’s leadership style contrasts sharply with rulers who lord it over their subjects and rule as despots. He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
If husbands led like Christ, with the good of their wives at heart, this would surely make it easier for wives to be “[subject] to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24).
Love like Christ
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (v.25).
Husbands must make a choice. Kendrick writes, “God’s calling for you as a husband was not to marry the woman you love, but to love the woman you married”.1 This love is not simply an impulse from the feelings which a man falls into and out of. You must choose to seek the good of your wife, no matter the current level of attraction.
This love is sacrificial, and Christ is our example. He “loved the church and gave Himself for her”. His choice to seek our good led to the supreme sacrifice, His death on the cross. Am I the kind of husband who would die for my wife? God says that I should be.
This love is moral. Christ loved and sacrificed “that He might sanctify” (v.26). This means to “set apart”. A husband’s relationship with his wife is one in which both are “set apart” for each other. Love demands that the relationship is exclusive, “let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2).
This love is spiritual. Just as the Lord seeks the purity and perfection of His bride (Ephesians 5:27), so a husband should earnestly desire the spiritual progress and growth in holiness of his wife. Every husband is appropriately happy when his wife looks her best but priority should be placed on the beauty of spiritual character.
This love is practical. “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies . . . For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church” (vv.28-29). We each love our own bodies when we care for them by responding promptly to their needs. Hungry? I’ll eat. Tired? I’ll sleep. Just as I look after the health of my own body, so I should ensure that my wife’s needs are met.
Finally, this love is unconditional. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (v.31). The union formed in marriage is intended to remain unbroken until death. If I love like Christ, my wife will not feel under threat of abandonment or desertion for “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35).
As a husband, my goal should be to lead my wife with her best interests at heart, while loving her sacrificially and unconditionally. This is pleasing to God.
- Kendrick, Alex and Stephen, (with Alcorn, Randy), The Resolution for Men, B & H Publishing Group, 2011, p. 91.
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