"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" -Ephesians 5:25 ESV
Mark Twain, one of America’s greatest writers, was also a lifelong opponent of Christianity. He called it the “slaughtering religion,” because of the bible’s teaching on Christ’s blood atonement. His wife, Olivia Langdon, was reared in a Christian home. When she met Twain, he downplayed his lack of faith. Eventually they were married and he returned to his former contempt of Christianity. Soon, she left the church. At one point in their lives, after losing everything financially and the death of his daughter, Twain said to his wife, “If it comforts you to lean on your faith, do so.” She replied, “I cannot. I do not have any faith left.”
Twain’s story illustrates a covenantal reality. As husbands, our spiritual temperature sets the spiritual thermometer for our homes, for good or for ill. This is a tremendous responsibility! So, how can we become more biblical husbands? Let me point out just a few principles from Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:25-32 and then offer some suggestions of what these principles look like in every day life.
First, a biblical husband loves his wife sacrificially (5:25). Oftentimes, we are told that the biblical view that the husband is the head of the home is a leftover from bygone days where men oppressed women. Certainly, there have been scores of abuses of this doctrine. But, taken seriously, the bible’s teaching on the husband’s role has nothing to do with oppression and everything to do with the highest form of love, sacrifice.
Therefore, Paul tells us to love our wives like Christ loved his people, the church. Think about that for a moment. How does Jesus love us? He never gets impatient with us. He is never too busy for us. He listens patiently. He forgives us again and again and again—and never gets tired of doing so. Most amazing of all, he dies for us. He went to the cross for his bride, the church.
Paul tells us that the kind of love Jesus has for us is the measuring stick for how we love our wives. That terrifies me. I fail in so many ways, every single day, to love my wife like this. But Paul never leaves us without hope. While he shows us the measuring stick, he does it in the context of pointing us to the only one who has ever measured up, Jesus. Therefore, by faith in him, we can begin to become more sacrificial, cross-shaped husbands to our wives. If we want to love them like Jesus, we need to know his sacrificial, cross-bearing love in the context of our own failures as husbands. The grace of the only truly faithful Husband to ever live is what we need the most to love our wives like Christ loves the church!
Second, a biblical husband points his wife to the gospel daily. Paul tells us that Christ cleansed the church by his word (Eph. 5:26). For us as husbands, this means we ought to be men whose main concern is the gospel, God’s word of grace to us. By our conversation and actions, we should be pointing our wives to Jesus every day. As one author put it, the gospel is not the A-B-C’s of the Christian life; it is the A-Z of the Christian life. Every day is a new opportunity to experience God’s grace in the gospel. Let’s bring our wives along with us in that experience!
Third, a biblical husband cares for his wife constantly (Eph 5:29). We don’t typically think of men being described as “caring.” Yet that is exactly what Paul says. He says that our high calling as Christian men is to nurture and cherish our wives. Basically this means that a biblical husband puts the welfare of his wife ahead of his work, his hobbies, his friends, and his relatives. Paul makes this clear when he cites Genesis 2:24 in Eph 5:31. We are to leave one family to form a new one with our wives. This doesn’t mean that the families we have left are somehow thereby unimportant. Far from it. The bible makes it clear that extended family is a good thing!
However, Paul’s teaching here does mean that, as biblical husbands, our wives are our primary focus of love and care. If it makes you nervous to think about being caring, just remember Jesus. He was a contractor by trade, took on a crowd of about 200 (and won), and singlehandedly overturned 10ft marble tables (cf. Matt 22:12-13). To put it simply, Jesus was a man’s man. Yet the most fragile, broken, and vulnerable women of the time flocked to him because they knew he was safe. This strange and wonderful mixture of strength and gentleness is only possible for us as husbands by the grace of our strong and gentle Savior, as his Spirit works in our hearts.
What are some practical applications of these three principles? Here’s a few: do something thoughtful for your wife every day. Show her you care by listening to her carefully. Find out what’s important to her and make it important to you (this is a hard one for me). Pray with her. Read the bible together. Talk with her about what the Lord is showing you in your study of his word. Surprise her with flowers or something she likes. Give her a card for no reason other than you love her. Plan at least one weekend away as a couple each year. Tell her she’s beautiful. Fix what needs to be fixed around the house. Most importantly, show her Jesus, even as you depend upon him to become a biblical husband.