One of the central truths about the Christian life is that it consists of people who are of the Word, the book; the story. This requires us, then, to be people of words, books and stories. Stories shape our affections. This is why worldviews are always narratives. Darwin tells a tale of a “nobody,” pile of goo becoming, through resilience and self-will, something nearly divine. Marx tells a story of a garden of Eden lost to the greed and lies of the bourgeoise who must be brutally overthrown by the hapless proletariat to return the world to equitable safety and comfort. C.S. Lewis said, “story always wins.”
This is why the stories we consume are so important. The stories we read, shape us. They inform our imagination, our intellect and our affections. In our hearts and minds; story always wins.
1 Thessalonians 1:6“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”
You became an imitator of the Apostles and the Lord when you were converted. What were you imitators of before that?
Ephesians 2:1–3And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following thecourseof this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Sons of disobedience imitate the prince of the power of the air and the spirit of the age. As sons of obedience you are called to imitate Christ; to be Holy as He is Holy; to love as He loved.
To aid in this endeavor, Jesus provided His life to imitate, as well as, apostles and church officers to imitate. Paul says, “Be imitators of me…” 1 Cor. 4:16, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children,” Ephesians 5:1. Paul says to “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7.
But to the point, the Apostle John says in 3 John 11“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.”
Taking all this together, we need to place before our eyes stories and biographies full of goodness, worthy of imitation. Good stories are soul food. And for our lack of appetites and for our gluttony for junk food, we need to do a lot of repenting.
What does this have to do with being a husband? The crucial command for husbands is to love our wives as Christ loved the Church. Because we don’t spend enough time placing His story before our eyes and subsequently, stories that reflect Him, we turn the command to love our wives into a statement about how Jesus Loved His bride, “a lot,” and so should we.
Adam fell because he stood by why His wife was deceived by a serpent. This fallen Seraph is what we would call a dragon (Gen 3:1; Num. 21:8-9; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:9). God promised the serpent that a dragon-slayer would come to save mankind; his bride; the church. The bible is ultimately about the prince who slew a dragon to win a fair maiden.
I know why you just rolled your eyes. That sounds a little fairy-tail-ish, there bro. But that is what Jesus is; a dragon slayer, a noble prince-knight; a warrior; a hero; biblical manhood; the collection of all those characteristics which flow from delighting in and sacrificing bodily strength for goodness. And that is how Jesus loved His wife.
But we prefer the hallmark version of loving them “a lot.” Remembering our anniversary, the occasional flowers, coming home every day, a decent birthday present; all the sappy ways that are so easy to pull off.
But the romance of marriage has far more in common with BeowulforThe Song of Rolandor That Hideous Strengththen it does with trash like The Notebookor Love Actually.
The last two examples are actual and emotional porn. Just as men are called to imitate the savior, so too, should they learn to imitate saviors. These lesser saviors must be understood biblically; men who laid down or risked their lives in the way of Christ-like sacrifice. This means husbands should learn from Alfred the Great, Mr. Darcy, Samwise Gamgee, Aragorn, King Lune, Bonhoeffer, J.C. Ryle, Ransom, Athanasius, Polycarp and Jonathon Edwards. Read the letters of Martin Luther and Katie Van Born or John and Abigail Adams. Those are romances that a man can get behind.
Some might scoff that such a list is just a highbrow elitist roster of names that the average blue-collar joe shouldn’t be required to know. Master’s degrees in history or English lit are not necessary to be a good husband!
But over the centuries it was average joes who kept those names in the collective memory and not academics with pinched faces. One of the real tragedies of modern man is how folk music, literature, history and legend have been overthrown by the sitcom.
Husbands should imitate the men listed above by learning their stories and not depending on “trained” professionals. It’s better to learn about Robin Hood from Roger Lancelyn Green than Kevin Costner or some lame special on the history channel.
What should a husband imitate? Goodness. Biblical manhood. The Savior. Where are such things found? In good stories; literature, biography and the bible.
The central point is to learn what a gargantuan range of sacrificial options are possible for a man who would love his wife in a fallen world, in a world where there are giants and dragons. A husband could be called to sacrifice his life or wealth or reputation or family or nation. Because love takes many forms, according to the lines of the story. And since none of us know what form our story is going to take, we men should know how nobility behaves according to the situation.
This is hard to do. We need good stories.