[Editor’s Note: This summer we at BtT are running some older but good posts. Look out for all new content in August. This post originally appeared on October 31, 2008.]
Portrait of a Redeemed Husband
Male bashing has been a favorite American sport for some time now. It is epitomized by a cover story in Time magazine dated February 14, 1994. On the cover you will see the body of a man with the head of a pig. The lead story for that Valentine’s edition was entitled, “Are Men Really That Bad?” The gist of the article was “yes they are.” Give them your heart and they will break it. Put your trust in them and they will let you down.
I think it must be admitted that men have too often invited such ridicule and scorn. Too many males have failed to act like men. They have come up short as husbands and fathers. However, this is where Jesus Christ makes all the difference. A redeemed man cannot be satisfied with a half-hearted devotion to his wife and children. Christ in him compels more. Christ in him demands more.
In Ephesians 5:25-33 the Bible teaches that a godly, spirit-filled husband will love his wife. In 1 Peter 3:1-7 the Bible teaches he will “know” or “understand his wife.” Let’s take a look at both admonitions.
Paul calls on a husband to love his wife. It is the Greek word agape. The word occurs six times in Ephesians 5:25-33. Its first appearance in verse 25 is a “present imperative.” A man is commanded by God to continually and consistently love his wife. Not leaving this to our imagination, Paul develops five facets of the Christ-like love every husband is to demonstrate toward his wife.
First, his love should be sacrificial (v. 25). A husband is to love his wife just at Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her.” The emphasis of the love described here is volitional more than emotional. This love is a choice, a decision, an act of the will. This is not an “I love you if. . .” or an “I love you because. . .” No, this is an “I love you anyway. I love you even when you may not be lovely.” This is how Jesus loved us when we were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-10) and alienated from God (Ephesians 2:11-22). Emotional love/feelings have their proper place in marriage. It is usually that which gets us started in a relationship. However, it cannot sustain us for a lifetime. We need something wider and deeper. We need a sacrificial love that seeks the best for another even at great cost to oneself.
Second, his love should be sanctifying (vs. 26-27). Christ gave Himself for His church “that He might sanctify and cleanse her . . . that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” The truth of this text as it relates to Christ and the church is readily apparent. But, how does it apply to the husband/wife relationship? It works like this. Because your wife is married to you, she is encouraged and enabled to grow in Christlikeness. The husband is her help in the process of sanctification and her being conformed to the image and likeness of the Savior. This means a husband will mentor and disciple his wife. He will lead and guide her to mature into a radiant woman of God. He will help her and not hinder her in her pursuit and passion for the things of God.
Third, his love should be sensitive (5:28). “Husbands ought (there is a moral imperative here) to love their own wives (it is exclusive) as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” A husband is sensitive to himself. He knows when he is having a good day or a bad day. He knows when he is up or down, happy or sad. In the same way he should be sensitive and aware of what is going on in the life of his wife. He needs to develop what I call a “marital radar system” that picks up signals that come from his wife. I should be quick to add this radar system should improve with practice and age. The way she walks into the room, body language, facial expression, and tone of voice are just a few of the areas a wise and godly husband will study and learn to read.
Fourth, his love should be satisfying (5:29-30). Paul says a wife should be “nourished” and “cherished” by her husband’s love. Both of these words are present participles affirming continuous action. A husband continually nourishes or feeds his wife with his love, and he continually cherishes or honors her with that same love. His love strengthens and sustains her. His love informs her that there is a place in his heart reserved just for her.
Fifth, his love should be specific (5:31-33). Paul (and Peter) not only grounds his theology of marriage in the atonement, he also locates it in the doctrine of Creation. Verse 31 is a direct quote of Genesis 2:24 (note Jesus’ citation of this as well as in Matthew 19:5). It is also pre-fall (Genesis 3). Having left father and mother to join or cleave to his wife, Paul concludes by charging the husband in verse 31, “let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself.” God calls a husband to be a “one woman kind of man.” He calls him to love his wife in such a way that she knows, the children know, friends know, and even enemies know this man is in love with and devoted to only one woman, and that woman is his wife. This man is neither a flirt or a fool. He commits to being alone with only one woman, and that woman is his wife. He constantly reminds himself that it does not matter how much he loves Jesus or his wife: “the wrong person + the wrong place + the wrong time = the wrong thing happening. The tragic example of King David is never far from his mind’s eye.