What does it really mean to be married?
We can come up with a hundred definitions, but the only thing that really matters is what God says about it. He talks about marriage many times in his word, but Paul sums it up well in Ephesians 25-33. He tells us exactly what God had in mind when he invented the institution.
I’m going to start by talking to the guys.
Believe it or not, the success or failure of your marriage has more to do with you than it does with your wife. That’s because the relationship hinges on your willingness and ability to love her as God commands. This is especially important to understand if you are not yet married. If you are not willing to do this, you have no business marrying her.
So let’s unpack this passage and take a good, hard look at it.
What, exactly, is a husband supposed to do in marriage?
1. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..
What did Christ do for the church? Every time I ask that question, the first response I get is he died. Well, yeah, he did. At the end of his ministry here on earth, he made the ultimate sacrifice so we could live.
But Christ did a lot of things for the church before he ever hung on that cross. He gave up the riches and splendor of heaven. And He was often incredibly uncomfortable – born in a stable, stuck in a desert for 40 days, and often tired, hungry, and thirsty. He refused to be served, instead serving others.
I could go on, but you get my drift.
Will you give yourself up for her?
When I bring up the idea of a husband giving himself up for his wife, most men immediately assure me that they would die for her. That sounds great, but odds are that you will never be called to do that.
Giving yourself up every day, though, is another story. You’d take a bullet for her – but will you take her to that place she loves and you don’t? Will you notice that she’s really tired and send her off to rest while you do the dishes? Will you clean out the garage like you promised without making her nag you about it?
That’s what giving yourself up looks like – doing things that you don’t feel like doing in order to care for her. Every. Single. Day.
2. … to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
The way you love her matters. Wives who are cherished by their husbands find it much easier to follow God’s will for their lives. Please don’t put words in my mouth here – your wife’s behavior and choices are her own, and she alone is responsible for them. But women who are loved well are overall healthier, happier, and more in control of themselves and their choices.
3. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.
This is pretty self explanatory. You take care of yourself, right? Granted, you may have times when you’re running on empty, but at some point you eat, drink, and sleep.
Do you notice when your wife is running on empty? Worse yet, are you the cause of it? If you get yourself a drink, do you get her one too, without being asked? Did she get lunch today?
4. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
Your priorities shift when you get married. Your wife, not your mom, is now the number one woman in your life. You need to be strong enough to set appropriate boundaries.
If your family of origin is reasonably functional, this won’t be difficult. If they’re not, it will. Do what you have to do. If your wife feels like your parents take precedence over her, or if she continually feels attacked by them, your relationship is doomed.
5. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Our human brains will never quite understand everything about Christ’s relationship with us. His love for the church is unfathomable, and there is nothing – nothing – he wouldn’t do for his bride.
6. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, …
We don’t need to learn how to love ourselves. We’re usually way too good at it. Think about all the things you did today to love you.
What do you think would happen if you directed that love toward your wife?
7. … and the wife must respect her husband.
Have you noticed that there are only four words in this passage that are directed toward the wife? No, that doesn’t mean God is letting her off the hook, but I have never met a well loved wife who had any trouble respecting her husband. Women just aren’t wired like that.
Who goes first?
If marriage is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church, then there is one fact we can’t escape – Christ went first. He did not wait until the church made a move toward him. He came, he gave himself up, and then he died, all without any kind of guarantee that anyone would believe in him or follow him.
You, as the husband, represent Christ in this deal. Love your wife. Period.
How will you love your wife today?
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