This direction for marriage in the new community of God’s people is directly preceded by the command to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Last week we talked about wives submitting, but we can’t adequately address that command without addressing the other side of the marriage equation. You might think that opposite the command to wives submitting (the other side of the equation) is for husbands to lead their wives, but it is actually for husbands to love their wives.
Husband is a verb. It means to use or employ to good purpose, to cultivate so that the thing being cared for reaches its full potential. Men are to “husband” their wives. The husband should do everything he can so that his wife can fulfill her purpose and be glorious.
Husbands are commanded: “Love your wives,” not “Lead your wives.” It does not say that husbands are to control or to dominate their wives. Biblical leadership, according to Jesus, is self-denying, loving service, illustrated by His washing of the disciples’ feet. The one who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is the one who serves. Here husbands are called to greatness as they follow the example of Jesus in humbly serving the needs of their wives.
The wife should be her husband’s first priority. Courtship is fun; for men it is a little like hunting. The man pursues the woman he loves. He is thinking of her all the time, how to win her. It is a conquest. The problem is that once he catches his woman and marries her, he gets busy and distracted by other things and stops pursuing her. He begins to take her for granted, assuming that she will always be there. Biblical husbanding requires much more than coasting!
The Model and Motivation for a husband’s love is Christ, who loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Because Christian husbands are part of the Bride of Christ (the Church), they have experienced Christ’s husband-love for them. Christ denied Himself so that we could have life. He makes intercession for us, accepts us, forgives us, and shows us grace. Jesus has loved and is loving us in this way—everyday.
The extent of a husband’s love is to be “As Christ loved the Church.” He gave Himself for her. He sanctified her. He cleansed her with the Word and presents her radiant, in all her glory. In Christian marriage, the wife is first of all a child and servant of God, so her husband must nurture her spiritually. He should pray for her, encourage her in the Lord, make sure she has time for Christian fellowship and Bible study, and speak the Gospel to her. The number one complaint of Christian wives is that their husbands don’t lead them spiritually. When was the last time you changed your schedule to help your wife, prayed with her and for her, or denied yourself in order to love her more than you love your hobbies and toys?
Femininity has been under attack for decades now. There are some things that women alone can do, such as carry life inside them and bear children. Woman was made to join with her husband so that together they could conquer the world! But a woman’s uniqueness is now ridiculed. A Christian husband’s witness to the world is to love and affirm his wife in such a way that she shines. He must show the world what happy, fulfilled, fruitful womanhood looks like by nurturing his wife in all her feminine, godly splendor.
Finally, husbands are told to love their wives as they do their own bodies. This is in keeping with the biblical injunction to love your neighbor as yourself and to do unto others what you would have them do to you. Husbands, an unloved wife is a self-inflicted wound. You are hurting yourself when you fail to love your wife. The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife. He is to gently and tenderly care for her.
Men love their hobbies. They pour time and energy into them. They take pride and delight in them. They spend a lot of money on them and they brag about it. Husbands, make your wife your hobby! Invest in her. Delight in her. Compliment her and praise her publicly. Husband your wife so that she reaches her full potential. We are to lay down our lives so that our wives can thrive.
How do you know when it is working? She will want to serve and submit to you because of what you have done for her, how well you have loved her. So pursue your wife. Hunt her; nurture her; make her glorious. Submission to this kind of man is a delight. In this way, Christian marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church and can be an effective Gospel witness to the world.