This coming August will mark the twelfth anniversary for Joannie and I. Like any marriage, we have had our ups and down, highs and lows, profits and losses. As a believer, and one who wants to honor and bring glory to Christ in all I do, I desire to love my wife as Christ has loved the church. But how do I do this? What does this look like? Below are five ways, based on Ephesians 5:25–33, that I am attempting to love Joannie as Christ loved and loves his Church.
1) Know Our Spouse’s Condition
Jesus knew the condition of humanity. He knew we were broken, sinful, unrighteous, and self-centered. He knew we were lost, but unaware. He knew we were severed from our Creator; that we were like sheep gone astray. Because he knew our condition, he knew what our greatest need was. He knew we needed to be redeemed—we needed to be rescued and saved from our sin. Because Jesus knew our condition, he knew how he could love us.
If we are going to love our wives as Christ loved the Church, we need to know her condition. We need to know her strengths and weakness; her fears and failures; her anxieties and anticipations; her dreams and nightmares; her likes and dislikes; and her turn-ons and turn-offs.
Knowing our spouse helps us to love our spouse. Knowing her, helps us to know how to meet her where she is at, in the condition she is in.
2) Relinquish Our Rights for the Good of Our Marriage
Paul continues describing in Ephesians that Jesus “gave himself up for her. . . .” Jesus couldn’t love us in our condition without relinquishing some of his rights. Paul shares in his letter to Philippians how Jesus relinquished some of his rights in order to meet us in our condition. Paul writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:5–7).
Christ relinquished his right as Creator, God, and King in order to reach us in our condition. He had the right to be served, not to serve. However, we know he came serving for the welfare of the human race. He had the right to demand praise and honor, yet he came lowly, humble, and meek, which was for the welfare of humanity. He had the right to call his angelic army to rescue him from the cross, yet he choose the path of suffering for the good of humanity. He relinquished his rights for his bride—his people, his church.
Paul did something similar to the Corinthians. In an effort to free the movement of the gospel in Corinth, Paul relinquished his right to get paid for gospel ministry (1 Cor 9:12–14).
I have thought about what some of my rights, as a husband, are. I have the right to be right, especially when I am; or, I at least have the right to argue my case of why I am right. I have the right to sit down and put my feet up after a long day. I have the right to go golfing if I want. You may have some other so called “rights” that you think you are entitled to. But the lesson we learn from Christ about loving our bride, is that we are to relinquish our rights for her good.
This may mean that rather than putting our feet up, we put our hands towards cleaning the dishes, helping bathe the kids, and tidying up the living room. Or rather than us going out with the guys this week, we may give our wife the afternoon, the evening to herself. Or, this may mean the next time she confronts us about something, or pointing out a way we can improve, we don’t mouth off trying to protect our inflated ego, but rather say “you’re right babe, I will work on that.”
Relinquishing our rights for the sake of our wife’s good demonstrates how we put her needs before our own.
3) Sacrifice to Elevate Our Spouse’s Condition
Paul tells us that Jesus gave himself up that he might sanctify the church. In other words, Jesus sacrificed himself in order to elevate his people’s, his bride’s, condition. What kind of sacrifice are we making in order to elevate our bride’s condition? Now, I’m not talking about becoming a work-a-holic to quench the material thirst your wife has. I’m talking about sacrificing in order to elevate the condition of your wife’s spiritual, emotional, and relational condition.
This goes back to knowing our wife’s condition, which means knowing her needs, fears, and desires. For instance, if you know your wife gets stressed out when the family schedule gets crazy, what can you sacrifice to help elevate her emotional status? If you have a wife who works outside the home, what can you sacrifice in order to lessen the stress of her managing the household? If you know your wife comes back emotional filled when she has a night or weekend with her girlfriends, what are you willing to do to make that happen? If you know going to this event or this chick flick would make your wife very happy—although you would dread going—can you sacrifice and go in order to elevate her emotional, relational value? What about taking the time to pray for her and with her? To talk about what Jesus is teaching you?
Remember, sacrificing for your spouse is pouring yourself out in order to fill-up her cup.
4) Fill Our Minds with Active Thoughts on Our Spouse
Paul continues the discussion and notes that if we are going to love our wives as Christ loved the church we must love them like we love ourselves. About eight months ago I took an assessment on how I viewed myself. As the counselor was going over my results, he looked up and said you think highly of yourself. (I kind of smiled and chuckled.) While it can be a strength to have a healthy self-esteem, the weakness can be that you think of yourself—your needs, wants, desires, and preferences—to the detriment of others, like your spouse. This is something I have had to really work on in my marriage.
I have a counselor who shared with me what he called, “Points of Attention,” to help me think about how I could actively think about Joannie. “Points of Attention” are thoughts during the day when you cognitively think about your spouse. For instance, when you go to the store, do you think of your wife’s favorite candy? Ice cream flavor? When you are browsing the clearance racks at Macy’s do you even think to go over and look for your wife? What about texting or calling your wife throughout the day just to let her know she is on your mind? What about putting your arm around her, or holding her hand in public, just so she knows you notice her and want to be seen with her? What about getting movie tickets, not to the latest Marvel Avenger’s movie or Peter Jackson flick, but to the latest genre of movie she’s likes?
How many “Points of Attention” do you have for your spouse in a given day, a given week? Filling our mind with active, deliberate “Points of Attention” demonstrates that we love our spouse just as much as we love our self.
5) Remember our marriage is a covenant
At the very end of the passage, Paul states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31–32). In short, Paul notes that Christ left (in obedience) the Father and became one with the Church through his death, resurrection, and ascension (and our faith in him). Here’s the beauty of entering into a covenant with Christ, when the Father looks at us—those who are in covenant relationship with Christ— he sees his beloved, righteous, and perfect Son in whom he was and is well-pleased. Our personhood is secure in the love and righteousness of Christ. We don’t have to worry about how the Father sees us. We don’t have to worry about Christ’s love towards us. We don’t have to worry if Christ is going to leave us, or if the Father is going to take away his love and affection for us, if we blow it. Our marriage to Christ is an unconditional, unwavering, unbreakable covenant. As a result, Christ actively clings and holds fast to us; thus, we should do likewise to him.
This covenantal relationship we have with Christ has great implications for our covenantal relationship with our spouse. We should actively cling to and hold fast to our spouse, which happens as we fulfill the above points. In doing so, not only do we remember the covenantal relationship we have and are in with our spouse, but also in doing so, our wives will be less likely to ever doubt whether or not we love them. Regardless of the environmental situational storms we may face as a couple, if we actively cling to and hold fast to our wives, they will feel safe, secure, and stable in their relationship with us.
May we love our wives as Christ has loved us, the Church! As a result, may we have healthy and holy marriages for the glory of God, for the good of our families, and for the good of the world!