In the last episode we taught what the Bible says about a man’s role in his marriage relationship. He’s supposed to be the head or leader. This week, we follow that up with a very practical question: What is that supposed to LOOK like, practically?
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None of us enjoy reading the manufacturer’s handbook to the newest gadget or thingie-ma-bob we bought (OK, some of us are weirdos and actually do enjoy it). Why is it not all that enjoyable?
It’s because we have something in us that wants to jump to the end result that we really, really want, without having to learn all the stuff that leads up to it. There’s a problem with that approach most of the time — the stuff that leads up to it is usually vital to GET that end result.
The same is true in marriage. Our culture has convinced us that we can figure it out on our own, or be happy in a relationship by taking a cue from Fred Sinatra (I did it mmmmmm waaaayyyyy).
Just look at the state of marriages in our culture and you can see how that’s working out for us.
In the last episode, we began a mini-series to address the roles within a Christian marriage, the way that the Bible addresses them. And to go along with the opening illustration, consider the BIBLE to be the Owner’s Manual. It’s God’s instructions for how things are to work in this world, including marriage.
In the last episode we addressed the Bible’s teaching that the husband is the head or the leader in the home. If you missed that one, why not pause what you’re doing and go back there now?
How does God do things, generally speaking?
When we get a theological truth in our heads, it’s important to ask a follow up question, “What does this mean practically? How do I live? What do I do in light of it?”
Thankfully, the Bible says a lot about those kinds of things. And many times it’s good to approach that kind of question with a general understanding of how God works,overall. It seems that much of the time, God does things in a backwards or in an unexpected way (from a human perspective).
For example, Moses, who God chose to to lead His people out of their captivity to the most dominant superpower of the day… was a man who could barely speak.
He stuttered, he was afraid, he didn’t feel he had what it took. But God used Moses to lead millions of his children through the wilderness and to the gates of the land He’d promised to their forefather, Abraham. And even today, Moses is regarded highly in Jewish culture, as one of the nation’s greatest leaders.
Another example would be David. We are probably more familiar with his story, rags to riches so to speak, from shepherd boy to king. He began out in the fields.
He wasn’t the one whom his father thought would be the best choice for king. He had many older brothers who fit that bill more readily.
But David is the one who God chose to be king of his people. But even before that, David shows up to give lunch to his brothers, who were in the army, and there’s this giant named Goliath, taunting everybody, defying the armies of Israel. At that moment, God put it in David’s heart, the shepherd boy, to pick up his slingshot and take out the giant. And he did, amazingly.
So the principle we’re trying to hone in here is simple: God does amazing things through the underdog, or through a channel or avenue that may not seem the smartest from our perspective. And He chooses to work that way over and over and over.
The most important example of God’s unusual or backwards way of working is through what He did by sending Jesus. In Jesus, God became a man, to die for us, sinners who couldn’t die for ourselves. He did this to redeem us, to bring us into His family, to make us His own.
An outsider looking in might say, “That makes no sense. Why would He do that, they aren’t worth it.” And they’d be exactly right from a human perspective. But God doesn’t look at things the way we do. He’s got a higher view.
Why does God work in this manner?
One reason why God works in this manner is because it brings Him more glory. He uses the weak to show His strength and thereby, receives greater glory. This is what He does in the context of marriage as well.
We should expect that. In light of that idea, it’s interesting to look at the relationships within marriage, the way God’s designed marriage to be and realize, He’s done it again in the commands He gives about marriage.
He appoints the husband, a man — who’s not always good at relationships, isn’t always a natural at communication, or multitasking, or all the things that make for a healthy, nurturing home. Yet, God appoints the man to be the leader.
Why? So the guy HAS to depend on the Lord. That way God gets the glory when it comes about… and we humans who are fumbling through the equation down her on planet earth get to have our faith increased and strengthened because we see Him come through again and again, when we couldn’t pull it off on our own..
So as we dive into today’s topic about the husband being required by God, expected by God, to love sacrificially, it’s a good idea for the guys (the husbands) to be very mindful of the fact that when God gives you commands that seem super hard, like this one, you need to remember that He never gives us instructions that He doesn’t intend to give us power to fulfill.
It’s through the power of His Holy Spirit who lives within you, by the faith that you have in Jesus Christ that you can obey these things, and believe it or not, you’ll actually get better at them over time, because God Himself is going to be involved with you in making it happen.
What it looks like for a husband to lead his wife, practically.
Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
Reading this verse, it’s clear that husbands are called to imitate Jesus in the most extreme terms. Look at what he says… “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Can you think of a more extreme example of sacrifice? And it’s a sacrifice that is very clear to us: for Him it meant suffering on the cross, but even before that it meant stepping out of heaven in the first place to become a human being.
Imagine the divine King of the universe stepping into human form and intentionally subjecting Himself to all of the hardships of human existence so that He could be one of us and atone for our sin as He did. That was a part of His suffering, which He did as an example for husbands to follow.
So when scripture tells husbands to love their wives in the same way that Jesus loved the church, this trait of self-sacrifice is clearly the overarching and defining mark of husbandly love.
What does that mean for us, practically? It’s putting yourself on the line for the sake of the one you’re loving. That’s your wife, guys. That’s what you are called to as a husband. So let’s dig into that.
Intentionality comes first.
Prior to Jesus doing all the things we just talked about, He had a purpose.
He had an intention. What does that say to you as a husband? If you’re going to love sacrificially, love well, you need to have forethought about the person you’re going to be loving.
This can be done super practically by learning what is important to your wife, what does she feel is a loving act toward her? Does she love you to touch her? Does she love gifts? Does she love having your time? Does she thrive under your encouragement or good communication?
These are all good practices on a basic level, but if you’re really wanting to care for your wife in the way that she really sees it as care, you need to know those things about her, specifically.
So men, think for a moment about the last time you really had to care for your wife. Let’s just say she was upset about something or bothered by something or hurt by something. What were the things you saw that frustrated you, or that you didn’t know how to handle?
You’re probably putting your finger on something that you need to learn more about, and as you learn more about it you’re going to find a great opportunity to love your wife.
It’s not easy for many husbands to deal with the emotional side of things. But husbands need to realize that a wife is healthy when she can express herself emotionally and feel cared for in those moments. That’s because God has wired her emotionally. It’s not a flaw in the design, it’s part of the design. Men, you need to learn how to love your wife well, on an emotional level, so that she can thrive and be healthy in that area.
Like Jesus, husbands should be taking the initiative in the relationship.
There are many areas where this applies, but let’s cover some super practical things to get the juices flowing.
First husbands, you need to make plans to love her. That doesn’t necessarily mean in the bedroom, it means day to day. How can you love her?
- What are the things that she appreciates?
- What are the things that make her day brighter?
- What are the things that make her feel valued and important?
Make plans to do those things. Don’t rely on being spontaneous because most guys are not as spontaneous or romantic as they think they are. So don’t depend on that. Plan it.
And get painfully practical about it, to the point of making lists. You can and should schedule things so that you can stay on top of stuff. It’s okay if you have to go line by line and check things off the list. At least you’re being intentional and at least you’re DOING something to love your wife.
You can even come up with standard questions that you know get to the heart of your wife. One that Carey uses often when trying to connect with Mindi and to love her well is, “How is your heart today? Mindi says that she never feels like it’s monotonous or getting old. That’s because she WANTS to share her heart with Carey daily.
So guys, don’t worry about it feeling rote. Don’t worry that being so regimented might offend your wife. Don’t worry about that. Show intention. Intention matters.
Your wife is going to love your intention.
As we’re describing all this, and it sounds like such a tall order, remember our main point. Husbands, like Jesus, are CALLED to exhibit loving sacrifice toward their wives. Guys, this is not going to be easy. It’s going to be something where you might have to set aside your preference of communication, your preference of how you deal with a certain situation or conflict, and get into your wife’s skin a bit and understand what she’s dealing with and how you can best love her in that place.
Your wife can best tell you how to love her
One of the ways you can find out how to love your wife in the various circumstances of her life is to ask her. You may need to do this outside of the intensely emotional circumstances, but at some point, you really do need to ask. For example, ask, “Back when we were dealing with such and such, how could I have loved you better emotionally? How could I have cared for you better?”
There are so many things that your wife might be dealing with day to day, things like her own personal opinion of herself, her interaction with her friends, her homemaking, her role as a mother, there’s just so much that’s going to bring about thoughts and emotions for her in every day of life. As a husband, you need to, to the best of your ability through the power of Christ, truly come to know your wife in those areas.
But if you forget to ask the questions, then you’re going to wind up taking a stab in the dark, which means that ultimately you’ll probably end up neglecting your wife. The sad thing is that you won’t even know it.
To sum up this section, keep in mind that your wife’s health, her well-being, her growth, her support, all of that belongs near the top of your priority list as a man. Because when you took on the role as husband, you took on the commitment to be an expression of that character trait of self-sacrifice that was just described in Ephesians chapter 5. That’s what you signed up for.
So she’s got to be near the top of your list. The only thing higher in priority is your your relationship with God. You need to stay tight with Him so you have the strength and knowledge and wisdom to know how to love your wife well, then she’s second on the list.
You’ve got to make sure that that’s there. More than church involvement, more than your career, more than your hobbies, more than any pleasures, she’s gotta be at the top of that list.
So men, if you are not already praying for humility, you should make that a daily habit. Pride and defensiveness are going to creep up on you and try to keep you from responding rightly to your wife. You may want to go back and listen to our episode about the importance of humility in marriage.
Biblical examples of sacrificial love
Reading the passage again, we can see a handful of descriptions of how Jesus fleshed out His love for the church, and the motives behind it.
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 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. In the same way husbands should love their 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, because we are members of his body.”
There are a number of broad principles with specific words used to illustrate those broad principles.
Sacrificial love is always for her good
The first one we see is that sacrificial love is always for the good of the one being loved. If you look at the words that describe Jesus’ attitude about the church, He’s working to sanctify her, to cleanse her, to present her without spot or wrinkle, to make her holy, without blemish. All of those are for her good.
So husbands, what is it going to take for you to get your mind oriented around the fact that your wife’s not a roommate, she’s not just a fringe benefit, she is someone you are responsible to care for and to help, for her good. You’re to help her grow, to help her stay encouraged, to help her be a blessing to other people, to be a better mom, whatever situation she’s in. As a husband you are tasked with empowering your wife as much as you’re able, in the strength of God, to make that happen.
Sacrificial love is nourishing in nature
Jesus does all the things He does for the church in a nourishing way. Did you notice that word in verse 29? “Nourish?” We normally think of this word in the context of nutrition or diet.
Husbands, do you think of your wife as someone you’re responsible to nourish? That’s part of your job as a husband. It may require self-sacrifice to actually help her be nourished, in fact, it often will.
Sacrificial love is cherishing in nature
Jesus also loves the church in a cherishing way. “Cherish” is probably not a word most guys use very often, but think of what it means. We cherish things that are of high value to us. We protect them, we take care of them, we maintain them.
I think about a guy with his new car or his tools or his golf clubs. He takes care of them. He wipes them down when he’s done. He cleans the car, he vacuums it, he does oil changes. He cherishes the car through those activities.
Guys, do you think of your wife in that way? Are you showing her that kind of attention? Is she a precious treasure to you that you’re determined to cherish? That’s a question for you to ask and answer yourself, based on what’s really going on in your heart.
But you can and should take it a step further: ask your wife if she feels that you cherish her. Her answer will be quite revealing, if you’re brave enough to ask her. But you SHOULD ask. It’s a great question because if she doesn’t feel cherished, then you can ask her, “How CAN I make you feel cherished? Because I do cherish you and I want to show you?” Speaking positively like that and telling your wife your good desires for her will go a long way toward loving her well, as Jesus loves the church well.
When a woman is cherished like this, she feels loved, protected, cared for, secure, safe. And when a man loves his wife this way, it has a MASSIVE impact for the Kingdom of God.
The world sees a beautiful picture of what life is like in the Kingdom of God. There’s love, harmony, encouragement, support, strength, confidence, peace, boldness, strength, and all sorts of desirable characteristics that are demonstrated by the marriage relationship… and much of it is happening in the husband and wife because the husband is loving his wife well.
Men, you can contribute significantly to the health of your marriage, your home, your children, all through the WAY you love your wife. Most guys need a little bit of a mindset shift when it comes to this. Learn to cherish your wife.
Do you love your own body?
Let’s look at one last general principle here. It’s in verses 28 through 30. Paul stops talking about Jesus’ love for the church and starts talking about a man loving his wife like he loves his own body. He says that when he loves his wife in the same way he loves his own body, the growth that happens in her as a result makes her a blessing to him in return.
Isn’t that an interesting twist? Now, of course, this is not to be his primary motive.
He’s not doing everything just because of how it’s going to benefit him. We can confidently say that because all of the teaching we’ve seen so far is saying the exact opposite. But this shows that God’s commands to the husband to love his wife sacrificially carries its own blessing. It comes back to you.
No doubt, there are many husbands who have struggles in their marriage because of different issues that the wife has. Maybe they feel like their wife is controlling, or she nags, or she’s critical, or she’s a yeller. Those are definitely issues of disobedience the wife is responsible for, before God.
But men, how are you helping your wife in those areas? What are you doing to encourage her toward conformity to Jesus? Have you sacrificed long and hard to learn how to love her well? It’s not only possible, it could be probable that she’s not being the most enjoyable wife because you has not sacrificially loved her as you should. Many times when spouses are acting in a sinful way towards one another, it’s because there are hurts, flesh patterns, and deep needs that have not been resolved or addressed.
It’s the husband’s role to draw those out so he can talk about it with his wife, he can help her process those, take them to the Lord and repent or ask for healing, or whatever is needed. The Holy Spirit is ready to help but husband, you have to step up and take the initiative to help your wife, not run from the problem and wash your hands of it.
If you find yourself in a situation that feels hopeless or maybe you feel trampled by your wife because she has a strong personality, or is condemning toward you or even abusive, you need to get some strength from the Lord and stand up and get determined and say, “I am going to love my wife so well that I’m going to see the love of Christ come out of her mouth. I’m going to be blessed by how she treats me, by how she runs the home, by how unified we are.”
And if you feel that all this is too lopsided, that we’re not holding your wife accountable for her actions and attitudes, you’re partly right. We’re not talking much about her role because this post (and episode) is not FOR her. It’s for you, her husband. We’re talking about the husband’s role, we’re just looking at you. Don’t get stuck in a place where you keep pointing your finger at your wife and saying, “If she would do this, if she do that…” If you take that approach you’ll stay stuck and miserable. Be the man and ask the Lord to teach you how to take initiative to love your wife in ways that will help her grow and change.
If you continue to obey the Lord and love your wife well, you can lovingly encourage and exhort her in wrongs along the way, but you just continue to make sure you’re doing your side of it. She might not respond well to the exhortation at first, but she’s going to see your example, your Christlike, humble, sacrificial love to her, and God’s going to use that to soften her heart eventually.
ASSIGNMENT: QUESTIONS TO ASSESS
A quick note before you dive into these assignments. Be honest with yourself. You need to really give it some thought and prayer as you consider your responses.
Question one: If self-sacrifice is the overarching and defining mark of husbandly love, do you look like that kind of husband? Are you one who is characterized by self-sacrifice when it comes to the way you relate to your wife?
Question two: Do you cherish your wife as you should? Remember the synonyms that we talked about — value, respect, treasure — are those attitudes that you have toward your wife?
Question three: What can you do to better nourish your wife? Remember what we said about providing everything she needs for health and for strength and for vitality.
Question four: Do you see your wife as a blessing to you? Do you recognize God gave you a good thing when he gave you a wife?
Question five: In all these questions, have you discovered anything you need to confess to God or to her?
LISTEN SEPARATELY then set a weekly appointment to discuss what you’ve heard, pray about what God may want YOU to adjust or implement, then plan how you will do so.
LISTEN TOGETHER: Set a standing weekly date to listen together, pray over what you’ve heard, discuss, and strategize how to implement relevant things into your relationship.
DO THE HOMEWORK: The more you invest, the more you’ll grow and experience God’s blessings!