I believe that your relationship with your spouse is the single most important human relationship in your life; second only to your relationship with God. Men, your job as a husband is infinitely more important than your vocation. It’s more important than any work you do at the church. It’s more important than any hobby you might have. It’s more important than your physical fitness. It’s even more important than your job as a dad. According to Scripture, your wife is to be the single most important person in your life, far and above the rest.
Tales from the dark side
Early in our marriage, Karen and I had what we affectionately call “the 7 years from hell.” It was a really difficult time in our marriage when we really didn’t like each other very much. We were way too Baptist to discuss divorce; but separately we both thought about it numerous times.
Well, several years into this time God began to convict me from the passage in Ephesians 5 where Paul calls husbands to love their wives unconditionally…no matter what. I mean he really hit me with it. So I decided to do just that. I decided to do everything in my power to show her unconditional love – and to convince her that I meant it.
I’d like to say that it worked and within a few months we were in marriage heaven. It worked, just not right away. It initially got worse. It was like the more I tried to love her the more I pissed her off. But I didn’t give up. And over the course of the next few years things began to change. Her heart began to turn towards me again. And together we climbed out of the pit.
Now, almost 20 years later, our marriage is stronger than ever. Don’t get me wrong, we still have difficult times. We still fight. But our love for each other is stronger than it’s ever been. It hasn’t been easy. But it’s totally worth it.
I believe that’s it’s possible for every marriage. And it starts with the men.
In this blog, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned about what it means to love your wife the way God intended.
I would guess that if I pushed you, most of you, if not all of you, would agree with me. We are called by God to love our wives. You’ve probably even told your wife that in your own words. My question for you today is; “How are you doing at proving it?” Is there enough physical evidence to prove your love? How are you doing at keeping the vows you made when you said “I do”? What we have to ask ourselves is – were they just words or did we really mean them?
The Apostle Paul issued this challenge to husbands:
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. (Ephesians 5:25–29, ESV)
As I have already said, I believe a man’s first responsibility is to his wife. I also believe that how we treat the second most important relationship in our lives is a pretty good picture of how the first most important relationship is going. What I mean is – you say you’re a good Christian? How’s your marriage? Are you loving your wife? You say you’re Spirit-filled? What’s life like at home. You say your heart’s burning hot for God? Is it burning hot for your wife? I realize that there are two sides to the relationship, but how’s your side?
I had a pastor tell me before I got married that marriage is a 100%/100% relationship. Not 50/50. In other words, I must be willing to do 100% of what it takes to make the marriage work in order for the marriage to work. 50% won’t cut it because, most likely, more often than not, I won’t think Karen is doing her half. I must be willing to do it all without expecting anything from Karen (don’t feel too sorry for me, he told Karen the same thing). But it begins with me. Being the “head of the household”, being “the spiritual leader”, doesn’t make me the boss. It just means I need to be the biggest servant.
Jesus is every husband’s model on how to love our wives. He is the standard. Don’t allow yourself to accept anything less.
- Love her unconditionally
Christ wins our hearts with His love – so should we win the hearts of our wives. Her “submission” is birthed from our love. We must be satisfied with that and love her with an everlasting, self-sacrificing love no matter what the results.
We are called to love our wives with the same unconditional love that Jesus shows us. This means no matter what she is doing or has done, no matter how she responds, we are called to love her. Even when she isn’t all that lovable – it doesn’t matter – love her anyway.
Jesus is our example. He set the bar. Love her unconditionally.
- Serve her
Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” This means I’m called to sacrifice my interests and give up my rights for my wife the same way that Jesus did for me, without any necessary promise that I’m going to get a return on that investment right now. It means that to be “head of the household” means I’m the biggest servant.
It was Jesus that first loved us. It was Jesus who gave Himself for us. It was Jesus who gave up all His rights. It is Jesus who surrendered His place in Heaven to come to earth and prove His love. It was Jesus
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8, NIV)
This means that I dedicated my life to serving my wife, to building her up, encouraging her, and supporting her. It means that I give myself to doing whatever I can to convince her how amazing she is and how important she is to me. It means that I live in such a way that there is no doubt, no doubt at all, that she is the most important person in the world to me.
Again, Jesus is our example. He set the bar. Give yourself up for her the way Jesus did for you.
- Nourish her
Paul compares how we treat our wives with how we treat our bodies. To properly nourish we must invest ourselves. Not the American way but the right way – proper nutrition, diet & exercise, etc. This requires, focus, attention, money, time and a tremendous amount of effort.
To properly nourish we must know what we are nourishing. We need to educate ourselves. Do you know what your wife needs? Do you know what would build her up? What would strengthen her? Do you know her deepest hurts and greatest desires?
Peter puts it this way; “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7, NIV)
That’s right guys – God says we are supposed to understand women! For most of us, this isn’t just the final nail in the coffin; it seals that baby up and buries it six feet under! Understand our wives! You’ve got to be kidding!
Let’s look at the word a little closer. The word “understanding” actually means “a seeking to know, an inquiry, investigation”
Ok, that’s a little better. You mean I’m supposed to try. I’m supposed to pay attention. Even that’s a big stretch for some of you that gave up years ago. But it looks like we are supposed to become students of our wives. Trying our best to learn all we can about them and really get to know them. I can do that. And while it’s difficult and potentially frustrating, you got to do it. This is a lifelong endeavor and really hard work, but the potential payoff is worth it.
- Cherish her
I believe that every wife should be treated like a queen – like a princess being courted by a knight. It seems that soon after we say “I do”, we don’t. We take each other for granted; we become complacent, comfortable and apathetic. It’s like so many of our old girlfriends, once we’ve won her heart, the excitement fades. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!
Lavish her with your love! Cherish her. Prove to her that you love her unconditionally. Don’t just say it, show it. Love her the way she receives love. Grab Gary Smalley’s book The Five Love Languages and figure out what hers is.
Cherish her…and don’t ever stop
- Protect her
Do we protect our wives?
Do we fight for them as much as we fight with them?
If a problem arises, what are we quick to do, gripe, complain or pray?
I’m reminded of a story told by John Eldredge, when he was complaining to God about his wife.
Will you fight for her? That’s the question Jesus asked me many years ago, right before our tenth anniversary, right at the time I was wondering what had happened to the woman I married. You’re on the fence, John, He said. Get in or get out. I knew what he was saying – stop being a nice guy and act like a warrior. Play the man. I brought her flowers, took her to dinner, and began to move back toward her in my heart. But I knew there was more. That night, before we went to bed, I prayed for Stasi in a way I’d never prayed for her before. Out loud, before all the heavenly hosts, I stepped between her and the forces of darkness that had been coming against her. Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing, only that I needed to take on the dragon. All hell broke loose. Everything we’ve learned about spiritual warfare began that night. And you know what happened? Stasi got free; the tower of her depression gave way as I began to truly fight for her.
- Show her honor!
Remember the second part of that verse in 1 Peter? “…show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Why is it that we get sidetracked with the phrase, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman, and never follow through with the next phrase show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life? They are connected with the word and. It must be read in context. The second phrase seems to eliminate the possible derogatory misunderstanding of the first.
Honor your wife. Show her honor. I made it my mission 20 years ago to convince my wife that she was as awesome as I thought she was. I’m making some progress, but it’s a never ending job. Women tend to be more insecure as a rule, and our culture doesn’t really help. But you can. Show her honor! Do it continually. Build her up. Encourage her. Compliment her. Let her catch you staring at her when she walks into the room. And tell her how amazing she is. You will surprised at the results. Trust me on this one.
Men; our first command is to love our wives. That is a Biblical command without any qualifiers. We are to show our wives love. It is meant to be a passionate, continuous act. The word “love” is a present tense, active verb. What we said when we proposed doesn’t cut it. What we said when we got married doesn’t cut it. What we said on our honeymoon doesn’t cut it. What we said or did last year, last month, or last week doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are lavishing our love on our wives today! Our example is Jesus who sacrificed everything for us and continues to pour out His love on us more and more every day! That’s love! That’s what we are called to. So let’s get to it.