Husbands, Wives and Church Ephesians 5:25 –“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. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become on flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Wow! The above verses pack a powerful punch to the jawbone of my pride. As a husband, I am to love my wife as Christ loved the Church? What does that mean? What does that look like? Where do I stand in light of this command? Let’s look at how Christ loved the Church. In order to do that, we must understand what or who the Church truly is. The Church is not a building; it’s a group of people whose hearts have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and brought to a saving faith in the redemptive work of Christ. In other words, the Church is a group of true Christians. The Church is also defined as the body of Christ as evidenced by the above verse. How did Jesus love the Church? Scripture tells us that He chose us before the foundation of the world and before we were even born, He loved us ( Ephesians 1:4). Scripture also tells us that there is nothing we can or will do that draws Him to us, but rather we are drawn to Him by the Father ( John 6:44). This love as we often refer to is unconditional. No hidden agenda, no strings attached, no gain or payback; just pure love. I wonder how many of us had an agenda, tied conditional strings, desired some sort of gain or pondered the payback when we sought after our wives. Oh we would never admit it, but rather describe our interest void of an ill-gotten selfish desire. Christ loved the ones He chose knowing that they hated Him, that they wanted nothing to do with Him (Romans 1:28-32). They despised Him, rejected Him, cursed Him, beat Him, mocked Him and crucified Him. That is not the whole, many men have been despised. Many men have been rejected. Many men have been cursed, beaten, mocked and many have been crucified. None willed it on themselves except for Jesus ( John 10:18). His love was purely unconditional. Jesus initiated His love for the Church. Love for the Church only existed because Jesus willed it ( Romans 5:8). He selected His “Bride”, if you will, based on absolute love. His love was not motivated by the Church, it was motivated by His love and that’s it. Without His love, there would be no Church. My wife used to tell me that she felt that Biblically, the husband should initiate the love. I never understood what she meant until now. As a husband, I am to initiate the love. Let me be perfectly clear, this does not involve some selfish, self pleasure kind of love. That is not love, it is lust. It is, however, a love initiated by the husband that is purely unconditional; a love that transcends all of me. This is why tension builds in a marriage as the husband seeks himself rather than his wife. Jesus led the Church. While gathering with His disciples, Jesus asks two very profound questions. These two questions define the essence of true leadership. He asked, “Who do
people say that I am?’ and ‘Who do you say that I am?’”(Mark 8:27-30). What answer would you get if you asked your wife these questions? It scares me to think of what my wife might say. What the people closest to you say about you is a reality. I used to say, “Perception is the father of deception”. As a leader in a Fortune 500 company, I never understood how some people could have a good perception and some a really bad perception of me. It was the people who had a bad perception that impacted my career the most. As you can derive from the quote above, I did not want to accept responsibility for the negative perception other people had of me. I would justify it by saying, “Those that really know me, like me.” After several years of leading with this philosophy, it was brought to my attention that I own whatever contention came my way. I learned that perception is not the father of deception, but the father of that person’s reality. I had to change the perception of those people. This required setting ME aside and replacing it with OTHERS. As you lead your wife, consider what her perception is of you. What does she say about you in her heart? Whatever it is, you own it. Jesus gave Himself up for the Church. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the propitiation for our sin ( 1 John 2:2). Propitiation here is a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor for another(ESV Definition) . In the case of Jesus, He bore God’s wrath that abides on us all in order to turn it to favor the Church. What are we to do with this? As husbands, we must protect our wives from any and all wrath. Whether it’s the Wrath of God or the wrath of this world, we must take on that wrath and turn it to favor for her. Too often we step aside and allow her to fend for herself. The perfect example of this takes us clear back to Genesis 3:6. Adam failed to protect his wife from the wrath about to come when she ate of the forbidden fruit. He was there in the Garden with her and there is no action on his part. Think for a moment of the lengths to which Jesus went to take on God’s wrath and turn it to our favor. There was no passivity found in Him, it was a relentless pursuit of the cross knowing the glory that was to come (Hebrews 12:1-2). What lengths are you willing to go for your wife? Is it a relentless pursuit or a passive denial of your responsibilities? Jesus sanctified the Church. We, as husbands, do not “sanctify” our wives nor are we able to wash them of their sins; we can, however, present her in splendor. Just as Jesus presents us in splendor before the Father, we must present our wives in splendor. Cleansing them with the word means to help them be consecrated into service to the Lord. Scripture holds that God’s Word and His Name are exalted above all things ( Psalm 138:2) and Jesus brought exaltation to His name and His word as He lived it right before them. He was the Word, He is the Word and He will be the Word (John1:1). Sanctification can only come through careful study and meaningful digesting of His Word to the point where it becomes a part of us, dare I say, “All of us”. It becomes the very fiber of our being. How can we be filled continuously with the filth of this world and expect to be seen as holy and set apart? If the Word becomes so much a part of us that those closest to us SEE God’s word living and breathing right before them, then we are truly sanctified. Presenting her in splendor is brings honor and respect to her to the point where others do not see a blemish, spot or wrinkle. When God looks upon His Church, all He can see is the interceding glory of His Son and that glory is accredited to the Church ( Romans 8:34). Concerning your wife, do others see spots, blemishes and wrinkles or do they see splendor and holiness? In other words, what do others hear you say of her? What do they observe as they see you interact with her? Again, you own it either way. Finally, the Church is God’s gift back to Jesus. Our wives are a precious gift from the Father and we should treat them as such. This gift was meant to endure forever and should never be taken for granted. There is nothing or no one that can take her from you (John 10:21). Would you still love her if she had no capacity to love you back (1 John 4:9-10)? Is your love for your wife anything like the love Jesus has for His Church?