Every married man, if he is sincere, would confess that loving his wife is a lot more difficult than he had imagined. Why is it so? One of the most common responses of husbands is that the wife is not easy to relate to or that she is a very difficult person to communicate with. Though it is true that some women do exhibit a bitter and defiant spirit towards their husbands, it is undeniable that husbands do fail to love their wives as expected by the Lord.
The biblical imperative is that husbands ought to love their wives as Christ has loved the church – “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). No husband has ever fully loved his wife to that degree or extent which is expected of him by the Lord. So, every Christian husband must make it his duty to love his wife likewise.
In the relationship between Christ and the church, Christ’s love is antecedent to the church’s love for Him. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Christ’s loving redemption did not come to the church because she was perfect in her ways and pleased Him always. Instead, Scripture says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). So, husbands’ love for their wives cannot be merely a reciprocal affection. Husbands should love their wives, even though they feel disrespected or hurt by them.
It is because of divine love that Christ has chosen a people to be redeemed and be His church. He said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you … Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” (John 15:9a, 16a). Indeed, “Christ… loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25) – He chose to love the church.
Husbands must be committed to love their wives even when they are taken for granted or disrespected by their wives. It must be emphasised that the biblical command given to the Christian husband to love his wife is not contingent upon how well she conducts or fulfils her role. The desire to love his wife must always be kept burning within the heart, even when it seems very difficult.
Christ’s love for the church is sacrificial; He made the ultimate sacrifice by dying for her redemption. “Christ …loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
Every husband must be willing to make sacrifices for his wife. This does not just mean that you are prepared to make that one ultimate sacrifice by dying for her, if need be. More than that, it means that you will live daily for her by painstakingly seeing to it that she be cared for and nourished up in Christ. Husbands ought to live sacrificially for his wife. He must be willing to set aside his personal interests to help her to be a happy and fruitful Christian woman.
Christ said that He came to serve the church – “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He knew the physical and spiritual needs of His disciples, and ministered earnestly to them without delay.
Husbands must be concerned about and be ready to care for their wives’ needs. Husbands who are too occupied with themselves are often ignorant and indifferent to their wives’ problems and needs. Husbands are exhorted to “love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28), and to “love his wife even as himself” (Eph. 5:33). Normally, no man would harm his own body, but would cherish and nourish his body. Likewise, every husband must love, care and nourish his wife. Though they abstain from adultery, husbands would still fail miserably in loving their wives as Christ loved the church, if they only think of being served by their wives and not serving their wives to cherish and nourish them. Husbands who show little interest in caring for their wives’ emotional, physical and spiritual well-being, must repent and strive to be servant-leaders, as Jesus is to the church.
Christ loves the church with the intention of presenting her sanctified – “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:26, 27).
Husbands who love their wives as Christ loves the church must also desire their spiritual purity, that they may be set apart for God’s glory and honour. Christian husbands must do everything needful – rebuke, instruct, encourage and lead – in order that their wives may pursue their sanctification. They should at all costs avoid provoking or guiding her to sin. There should be no vulgarity, dirty jokes or ungodly activities, such as watching ungodly movies and following a materialistic lifestyle. Husbands must admonish their wives if they have unbiblical thinking, bad habits or sinful conduct. Wives must also be instructed to dress modestly, to avoid appearing “under-dressed” (with hemlines above their knees, revealing clothes, etc.) – that they may not be sensual in their appearance and become a temptation to other men. Husbands must not approve of any worldly lifestyle adopted by their wives (1 Jn 2:15) if they were to love their wives as Christ loves the church.
Husbands’ highest duty of love to their wives is to help them grow in purity and holiness before God. Husbands must encourage their wives to be set apart for God and to increase in the service of the Lord. Husbands must always be mindful that their wives are given to them not merely for their pleasure and comfort, but to guide them according to the Scriptures for the Lord’s honour and glory. Through biblical instruction and example, husbands must help their wives to put sin to death so that they can come alive to righteousness. It is also the task of the husbands to help their wives flourish in the exercising of their spiritual gifts to serve and glorify God. Their wives must be encouraged to bring glory to God by doing good to others. Husbands ought to love their wives with a sanctifying love.
Jesus’ love is an enduring, steadfast love, for “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (Jn. 13:1). It is with a lasting, faithful love that Christ loves the church. As the apostle Paul said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).
Husbands must be utterly faithful and committed to their wives in the same way that Christ loves the church. Christian husbands must provide their wives the security of steadfast and faithful love, in which she can blossom emotionally and spiritually. A husband must be committed to his wife to the exclusion of all others – “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Eph. 5:31; cf. Gen. 2:24).
A husband, who ill-treats his wife and puts her down, dishonours Christ. Such a husband projects a false picture of Christ, a “Christ” that could possibly abuse and put down His bride, the church. Husbands who desert their wives – either through infidelity or indifference – in effect portray a heresy, which gives the impression of a false Christ who could abandon His church. So, let every Christian husband bear a good witness in this ungodly world concerning his Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, by loving his wife as Christ loves the church.