Ephesians 5:22–33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
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 one 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.
Paul teaches that men must love their wives and wives respect their husbands. Few forms of behavior are less respectable than not standing up to disrespect. Few forms of behavior are less respectable than that of demanding to be respected.
So, how do we stand up for respect without ruining it by demanding to be respected? Paul also commands husbands to love their wives and wash them with the word. When a man loves his wife as Christ loves the church, one of the blessings that flow is respect. A man who loves, obtains respect.
But love is not a quarter we insert into the respect soda machine. Love is a way of life. Marriage is not the exchange of commodities. What does it mean that a man loves a woman?
To begin, Jesus’ love was a particular love. Jesus is monogamous. He gives Himself for His bride. He isn’t out chasing Muslims around, or flirting with the worshipers down at the Buddhist temple or sneaking illicit peaks inside Mormon temples.
He has one wife, the church. He is a one-woman man. Jesus does not love other religions or worldviews redemptively. To imitate Jesus means we must be a one-woman man. We ought not be chasing, flirting or eyeing any other woman.
Husbands are a walking talking, incarnational typology of the Gospel and when they waver in their sexual dedication to their wives, they have begun to model a religious relativism.
The particularity of the atonement is very important, but a man’s confession of the atonement is rot if He is unfaithful to his wife. Devotion to the particular atonement of Christ without the same devotion to his wife, makes a man a joke, a lie, a heretic.
Next, Jesus loved His wife sacrificially, unto death. When a man lays his life down for his wife, it isn’t sporadic, varying from what has gone before. It’s not an event. It’s a way of life. A sacrificial death on behalf of one’s wife cannot be outside the context of a sacrificial life on behalf of his wife.
When Christ laid His life down for His wife, it was the next logical step in His life. It was characteristic of His entire life. It began in a manger, continued throughout a lifelong ministry and culminated on the Cross.
Too many of us want all the perks of headship – dominion, glory, prestige, respect and a kingdom that wife, boys, girls, cat and the tv controller serve without backchat– forgetting that headship is based on sacrifice and service.
Jesus’ exaltation is a result of His humiliation (Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus’ authority is based on service. The man desiring to be the boss of his family without self-sacrifice fueling his day-to-day actions is secretly desiring to be a Muslim.
Christian men honor their wives by imitating the kind of self-sacrificing authority that Jesus modeled, which comes from a servant’s heart.
Furthermore, a man loves his bride sacramentally. Adam said, “this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” A marriage is consummated on the wedding night but is renewed through regular intimacy. A lot of contemporary marriage problems, in Christian homes, stems from a faulty view of the Church’s sacraments. We partake in communion weekly because regularly renewing the covenant is crucial to LIFE. Communion is more than JUST a memorial. It signifies deep spiritual bonds, promises, fidelity, sustenance and joy.
A man loves a woman by maintaining his relations with her and those relations are about more than a few short breathless moments with the lights off. Good marital intimacy really does begin in the kitchen. Marital intimacy begins with public devotion to one woman and her children. Something really is renewed, something really receives nourishment and it can be starved or well fed.
Lastly, this is a love story. Men are loving their wives with an end in mind. Men are commanded by Paul to nourish, cherish, cleanse, and present their wives. Its vibrant, dynamic and growing toward a harvest. The story has a beginning, a plot, development, characters, etc. Men must see themselves in the story correctly.
Ask the right questions. If your household were a story, who would you, the husband, be in that story? The antagonist? The protagonist? The sidekick? The comedic relief? The villain? The buffoon? Is the story going to end the way Paul describes in Ephesians 5 – “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing… holy and without blemish?”
If not, which character in the home is preventing the right kind of fruitfulness? The right ending?