How to Love Your Wife as Christ Loved the Church

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!

10 Things I have learned in 10 Years of Marriage:

Today I celebrate ten years being married to one of the greatest, most self-giving, self-sacrificing, most-loving, most-beautiful women I know. It is hard to believe that a decade has past since we tied the knot.  In looking back over the last decade, I have learned so many things (too many for one blog post) about marriage. Therefore, as a celebration of our anniversary, I thought that I would write a blog on the top ten things I have learned over the past ten years of marriage.

  1. I have learned that marriage with a purpose will be a marriage with a measurement. Joannie and I have covenanted together with the purpose of bringing glory to God and making much of him. Obviously bringing glory to God is a high purpose with a zero chance of humanly measuring up. This is where the primacy of Christ in our life and the longing to be filled with the Holy Spirit plays an essential role. Nevertheless, having the glory of God as our purpose, we have a measurement by which to measure the effectiveness and health of our marriage. We have a gauge that tells us how we are doing.
  2. I have learned that marriage with an unmovable center will be a marriage with an anchor through storms. If you have been married for any stretch of time you have probably been through a storm. Family divorcees, family deaths, sicknesses, diseases, heartaches, job transfers, moves, and transitions. There are times when multiple storms come upon couples at one time making their lives seem that they are in a tropical depression or hurricane. Therefore, having an unmovable center that will anchor the marriage through storms is paramount. Looks, money, health, jobs, lifestyle, happiness, friends, houses, cars, etc. are all movable and changing. For us, the unmovable anchor and center has been the supremacy of Christ, his great love with which he has and is loving us, and the presence of the Spirit of God living within us. In other words, the gospel has been our center, our anchor. We echo what the author of Hebrews exclaims, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” (Heb 6:19).
  3. I have learned that marriage with right priorities will be a marriage with correct alignment. In the past I have gone to see a chiropractor. Each visit the chiropractor would do some minor touch ups—cracking and popping my body back into alignment—so that it would correctly function. I have also taken my car to the mechanic to get my tires rotated and aligned, as well as to check all the fluid levels, so that my vehicle would be properly aligned to maximize its effectiveness and performance. Priorities in a marriage act as a mechanism by which a marriage is properly aligned to maximize its effectiveness and performance. When a marriage becomes disjointed or misaligned, chances are there is an alignment (or priority) problem. Therefore, it is important to set priorities and boundaries that would protect a marriage from being misaligned.
  4. I have learned that in a marriage couples must learn contentment not complacency. I remember some of the conversations that Joannie and I had prior to our wedding day. It seems like we had it all figured out. However, we have learned that things may not work out the way you planned. And for me, I am a planner, an organizer, and a visionary who tries to have it all mapped out. The problem is that there are times that what you planned for does not happen—whether it is a place you wanted to be in your career, life, finances, or health. As the apostle Paul learned, so too have I learned (and am learning), “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13). Contentment is key, not complacency.  So for me, I have learned that while I may not like some of the circumstances and situations I found myself in and desire to be removed, I have learned that I am content and that in Christ I can endure.
  5. I have learned the love bank of a marriage is healthily full when the little things are done consistently. I have learned the importance of hugs, kind words, washing dishes, helping with the kids, changing a diaper, cleaning up after myself, helping around the house, communicating when running late, remembering to take out the trash, and calling throughout the day. These things, and more, demonstrate to Joannie that I care for her and love her. Therefore, if I am to make deposits into the love bank of my marriage, it will be healthily full when I remember to do the little things—and to do them consistently. Doing the little things build the platform to really enjoy and celebrate the big things.
  6. I have learned that being together and getting away is something you cannot afford not to do. Joannie and I have, and run, a very active family. We love getting out and doing things. Therefore, we love doing things together. We love having fun whether it is just the two of us, or with the whole family. It has been important for us to get away and do things together, to experience life and to have fun doing life together. But, it has also been important for each of us to get away by ourselves. For me, I have had opportunities in ministry and pursuing my PhD to get away by myself with other men. Over the past couple of years Joannie has taken a cruise, as well as enjoyed a weekend or night getaway with some of her close friends. Also, these times of individual retreats can be as simple as going to play golf or going to get your nails done. In any case, these times have been good and healthy for the both of us. They give us breathers from our everyday life.
  7. I have learned that thou shall laugh, or learn to laugh, with one another. In all honesty, Joannie loves to laugh. She really is a good audience! When we are together, whether it is driving down the road or sitting at the house, we laugh. Laughter is nutrients for the soul. Find things to laugh at. Many times, we take movies that we really like and have made us laugh, and in a similar situation repeat the lines.
  8. I have learned to seek redemption in our disagreements. Disagreements may be a politically correct term; some people know “disagreements” as fights. Whether they are disagreements or fights, they happen—especially when you have two first-borns, one who is from a New York Italian family and the other from a Redneck Tennessee family, and who are independent and stubborn. Therefore, I have learned to be redemptive, which works in a few ways. First, in the disagreements I strive to please and demonstrate Christ (which is easier said than done). Second, when you have crossed the line in the disagreement (which I have done many times over ten years), be very quick to say you’re sorry. In other words, repent. I have learned that being redemptive—both in striving during and even after disagreements—manifests that the marriage is not about me, my ego, my pride, or my desires; rather it is about Jesus and his glory.
  9. I have learned that a marriage covenant needs protecting. Marriage is not easy. God, nor anyone else, says it is. And there are a plethora of things that can threaten the health and vitality of a marriage covenant. Therefore, just as a garden needs protecting, a marriage needs protecting. Many of the previous things I have learned (and mentioned above) are ways that I, and Joannie, have sought to protect our marriage. In addition, we have set up other boundaries in our marriage in an effort to protect the healthiness of our covenant. If something is important to you, you will protect it at all cost. Joannie is the most precious gift and blessing to me (outside of my salvation), and I have been entrusted with a lifelong covenant of loving her as Christ has loved the Church and giving myself up for her (see Eph 5:25-33). This high calling faces threats everyday that requires much protection.
  10. I have learned that after ten years, I still have a long way to go. After ten years I am no expert when it comes to marriage. I know that I have such a long way to go in learning (and in application). In addition, given the fact that I desire for my marriage to go the distance, I have a long way to go in life. In an effort to learn and go the distance, one thing is for certain, “I must decrease, and Jesus must increase.”