What are some practical ways for a husband to “love his wife even as Christ also loved the Church”?
The majestic relationship of Christ and the Church has been eternally in the plans of God for His Son. In this world God has given men and women the privilege of entering into a marriage that can both follow this model and reflect this eternal relationship. This is not, then, an option or an ideal, but the very standard to which God holds every husband. Therefore, for a husband to love “as Christ,” we must look at some ways that Christ practically loves the Church.
Make her feel unique. The Church is the sole object of His love and the Church never worries about divided loyalties or affections in Christ. Love in a husband will make him act, speak, and think in such a way that his wife knows there is no other person in his heart but her. For example, a deacon or an elder is to be “husband of one wife” (1Tim 3:2, 12, Darby) emphasizing that they are to be especially noted as “one-woman-men.” Paul closes his teaching in Ephesians 5 emphasizing this point by saying, “Let every one of you in particular love his own wife.”
Make her feel valued. Christ loved the Church and has given the Church a constant and eternal awareness of the value He places upon her just like the merchantman and the pearl of great price. A husband must also make his wife feel valuable and important. The way to do this is to act as Christ did when “He gave.” Any gift to a wife sends the message that she is valuable and special in his heart. Selfishness is the curse of marriages. Christian husbands are called to be “givers” rather than “getters,” following the example of the greatest and most cheerful giver of all.
Sacrifice for her. Christ did not just give to the Church; He “gave Himself for it.” The true measure of His love for the church was not what He gave TO the Church, but what He gave FOR the Church. This is the emphasis with the merchantman who “went and sold all that he had, and bought it (the pearl)” (Matt 13:46). A husband could then ask, “What has it cost me to love my wife today?” A husband could sacrifice time and other activities to be with her; energy to help her; money and opportunities to support her; or give her kind words and gestures that could easily have been given to others.
Communicate with her. The first figure of Christ and the Church in the Bible is Adam and Eve. When God brought her to him, “Adam said…” Imagine the delight when he spoke to her and when he spoke about her. Has Christ spoken to the Church? What will the eternal communication be like between Christ and the Church as He speaks to her and about her? In the same measure, communication is one of the truest expressions of love. While men by nature can often be reserved and less emotional, husbands must override personality and natural tendencies to communicate openly and often with their wives. Even more so, the goal is to develop the relationship so that nothing inhibits open and complete sharing between husband and wife.
Be positive. In Ephesians 5:22-33, every action of Christ towards the Church is positive. His love does not turn a blind eye to blemishes or a particular “spot, wrinkle or any such thing.” However, His treatment of her is always seen as positive both in the goal and the manner of the action. Human nature tends towards negativism, criticism, and competition, which are really twisted forms of self-righteousness and pride. A husband is not charged to point out all the faults and failures of his spouse, but to love her with the most positive attitude and manners possible.
Bring out the best in her. In the end, the goal of Christ in His provision for the Church and His treatment of her will be to bring out her virtues and strengths so that she will be a “glorious Church” reflecting the very glory of Christ. A husband’s actions and reactions toward his wife can sadly bring out the worst in her. To love a wife means to carefully and prayerfully speak to her, help her, encourage her, and lead her to become “holy,” all that she can be for God fulfilling His will and reflecting His character.
Make her the priority. The Church is called the “body” of Christ (v23), to which He gave priority over all others. The first instinct in a man is self-satisfaction and self-preservation. Paul calls men to relinquish that natural impulse and give that same attention and priority to their wives. “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies” (v28).
Make her feel secure. The relationship between Christ and the Church is permanent and there will never be a possibility of that relationship ending or dissolving. Thus, the teaching of Scripture, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife.” A wife should never have reason to doubt the security of her marriage bond. When a husband leaves his parents, he is then “joined,” or “glued” (Thayer) to his wife, giving the idea of an initial, yet deepening and permanent bond. What happened positionally at marriage, “leaving and cleaving,” is to be reflected and repeated every day in a marriage; a husband should guard and fortify this relationship before the Lord.
Help her to grow. The Lord “nourisheth and cherisheth” the Church (v29). He brings her to maturity (nourisheth—to bring up) by providing warmth (cherisheth) and “tender care” (Vine). A husband is responsible for the spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and mental well-being of his wife. He should work to cultivate an environment of “tender care” in which she can flourish and be all the woman she can be.
Be a leader. Often the question is asked as to why the man but not the woman is called to leave his parents. This passage is full of the exercises and actions of Christ as He assumes the role of “Head of the Church” (v23). A man then leaves and cleaves and the response of the wife is assumed as she follows suit. There are no sermons about submission and obedience or any expectations or demands placed on her. He takes responsibility for the relationship which practically translates into praying for her, helping her, talking to her, being first to apologize, seeking her input in decisions, seeking solutions in differences, delegating but remaining responsible before God and, above all, showing her day by day the heart of Christ.
Conclusion: Feel like a failure, brother? May God touch our hearts to refocus, and begin afresh. May every Christian husband thrill again to the call: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.”