If you asked a man if he loved his wife, most men would certainly say yes. “Of course I love my wife, that’s why I married her.” Marriage seems so simple. Two people fall in love and live happily ever after.
But in the real world, marriage isn’t so simple. Half of marriages don’t end anything like “happily ever after.” And lots of men don’t truly love their wives. Sure, men say they love their wives and genuinely feel love for their wives. The romantic attraction is unmistakable, like nothing else in the world. So how could I possibly say that lots of men don’t love their wives? Loving your wife in a godly way means not only having a feeling but acting that love out in real life.
Love Her Sacrificially
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph. 5:25
This is a direct command to husbands, one that is supposed to last “til death do us part.” While every husband feels love for his wife, obedience to this command is less common and not as easy as it might originally appear. If everyone was already doing this, then why even command it? But not everyone does this. Paul tells husbands that their love for the wife must be like Christ’s love for the church. How did Jesus love the church? He gave Himself up for her.
Jesus showed us what true love is. He left heaven to become like us and gave up the glory due to Him to be mocked and ridiculed. Instead of giving people the hell they deserved, He died to take the penalty for our sins, and forgave us for insulting Him in the process. That’s how Jesus loved us. And that’s the model for husbands. I know Jesus had strong feelings for us, but those feelings were not the end of his love. He acted out His love by giving Himself up for us. In the same way, husbands need to give themselves up for the good of their wives. Feeling love for your wife is not enough; you need to actually do something to love her.
Love Her By Leading Her To Christ
“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.” Eph. 5:26-27
Men also need to love their wives in a way that makes their wives more holy. It’s not just about making her feel good. No amount of gifts, flowers, or compliments about her looks can accomplish this part. While these are all good in their place, they’re not enough to fulfill the command in Ephesians 5. Husbands need to lead their wives to become more like Christ. They need to build their wives up, not simply in their self image, but also as a fellow believer. Husbands ought to encourage their wives to read their Bibles, share Christ with others, and live out godly character. This shows a long, lasting commitment to working for her good. Christ loved the church by giving her his righteousness and sanctifying her, and husbands need to lead their homes to know God and live holy lives.
If husbands are going to follow Christ’s example of love, they need to be the spiritual leaders for their homes. If your wife has to drag you to church or shame you into reading your Bible, then you’re probably not loving her in a way that makes her more like Christ. When your family prays, are you waiting on your wife to volunteer? Step up to the plate and lead your family to pray, to discuss the sermon, and to share what you’re learning in your personal Bible reading.
Love Her As Your Own Body
“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” Eph. 5:28-29
When a man loves his wife like this, he takes care of her needs as if they were his own. If he knows that she likes the dishes to be done when she comes home, he puts down the remote and does the dishes. He doesn’t do it because he loves scrubbing pots and pans, but instead does it to help his wife. It doesn’t matter whose job it is, the loving thing to do is to actively work for her good.
Love Her By Understanding Her
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Pet. 3:7
Loving your wife can be a difficult task because it involves thinking about someone other than yourself. Husbands must learn to understand their wives as women. She’s not a man, and she doesn’t want to be treated like one. There are things that are appropriate for the guys that a woman would rather miss out on. But even beyond that, there are things that a man would appreciate that a woman simply would not.
One year for my birthday, my wife got me tickets to see my favorite college football team. I really appreciated it and felt really loved because she thought about what I enjoyed. If I wanted to make my wife feel loved though, I probably shouldn’t get her football tickets. I need to understand what she likes and what she wants because she’s different than me with unique needs and desires. I need to figure out how she feels love. Husbands, show your wives love in a way that’s meaningful to her, not just to you.
Men must also understand that their wives are “fellow heirs of the grace of life.” God created man and woman in His image and made woman from the rib of man. Eve was like Adam, she was a human in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). They’re both children of God. Husbands need to respect their wives and love them “as their own bodies.”
Men must be careful to not misunderstand the talk of a “weaker vessel.” While some are quick to point to this language as a sign of the Bible being captive to its culture, in truth these words still hold true today. Peter used them to demonstrate that women are different than men. We must consider the feelings and attitudes of our wives and realize that they might not be the same as our own. The term “weaker vessel” doesn’t mean “inferior being” but simply refers to the fact that women aren’t generally as strong as men. Unlike the world, which usually treats “weaker” beings as inferior, Peter uses the fact that women and men have differing bodies to illustrate that husbands need to understand and love their wives.
Joshua Harris notes, “What God is saying here is a radical reverse of the way our world works. He says to husbands, “Don’t use your physical strength as justification to mistreat your wife-instead, show her honor.”
When you commit to marriage, you’re committing to putting her needs above your own. For all the single people out there, if you’re not ready to do this, then don’t get married. Don’t lie to the woman you supposedly love by telling her you love her and then being inconsiderate of her needs. For the married guys, give yourself up, give up fighting for your rights, and love your wife. Take care of her needs, look out for her good, and prove that your love is more than a feeling.
If you’re wondering if all this truly matters or if it can actually be done, read the second part of this series to see why the stakes are so high and how a husband can live this out in his own marriage.