The love of a husband—a reflection of Christ’s love (Ephesians 5:22–33)
Last Wednesday, November 3, is one of the happiest days of my life. On that night, the woman I have loved and pursued, Rita, accepted the love I so ardently offered, and gave me her own heart to hold and cherish and guard. It was a glorious night, full of joy and love. And yet if I am to truly walk in the way of the Lord, this love that was given to me has certain responsibilities attached to it. But if my love be true and pleasing before the Lord, then these “responsibilites” are not so much hinderances or duties, but true manifestations and expressions of love, as first expressed by the Author of love Himself, our Lord God.
The charge to lead
Turn with me to Ephesians 5:22–24, one of the most controversial passages in the Bible today. Here, wives are called to submit to their husbands just as the church submits to Christ. Why? Because as Paul pointed out, husbands are to be the head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church, which is His body. There cannot be two heads in a family. Otherwise, the family will be torn apart.
But the head cannot make a decision without input from the body. And the head cannot decide only for itself, apart from the body. Whatever happens to the body happens to the head, and if the head were to be the sole center of decision-making, then the head is responsible for whatever happens to the body. The head enjoys all the good that happens to the body, and suffers with the body all calamities that come to it. Thus, as this passage calls wives to submit to their husbands as an act of obedience to Christ, so also does this passage calls husbands to step up and be the leaders that God called them to be. If wives are to follow their husbands, is it not only expected that husbands should be followable? Is it not only right that husbands should be respectable, decisive, and able to look after the well-being, fulfillment and overall holiness of his wife and children? If the wife is called on to trust the husband to make decisions for her and her family, then the husband is called to be worthy of that trust.
But is this whole submission issue just a matter of duty and responsibility? I remember one lady speaker at a forum who presented a Christian feminist view of the story of Mary and Martha. When she was asked, “Don’t you, as a woman with feminist beliefs, find it hard to submit to your husband?” She answered, “I have seen my husband stand by me when I was at my worst. He took on all my arguings, my whining, and my unreasonableness, and still he stood by me. On top of this, he said that he loved me so much he would take a cannonball for me, and I know he would. Because of such great love, I cannot help but submit to him. I think any sane woman would gladly submit to a man like that.” And a man like that is a man who striving to be like Christ.
The call to be like Christ
If the wife is called to submit to the husband as an act of obedience to Christ, the husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. And how did Christ love the Church? He gave Himself up for her, the greatest expression of which is the Cross. Christ died for the Church so that she may be cleansed of her sin, cleansed of her shame, and made holy to enable her to be with her Bridegroom. He gave her His Word that she may be able to follow Him. He came to earth and spent His life that she may become the people He inteded her to be.
In the same way, husbands should love their wives so much that he would lay down his life for her. To the extreme, he is to die in her place should it come to that. If not, then he is to live his life devoted to his wife’s good. He should be the spiritual leader, making sure that she is growing in knowledge and relationship with the Lord. He should be able to teach her the Truth that would make her more and more into the image of Christ. He should strive to make her more pure, more righteous, more holy. And, possibly more painfully, he should nurture her to the point that she loves Christ more than she loves him. The husband should seek to lovingly correct his wife of her faults, so that none may find fault with her, and praise her for her good traits. But to do all this, the husband may be called upon to give up his ambitions, his dreams, his aspirations, even his lifestyle, so as to better care for his wife and make her happy.
The call to provide and nurture
Christ, as Head, cares for His Body, the Church. He feeds her with His Word and His riches. He provides for her every need, as we have seen in our church here. He gives her guidance as to what He wants her to do, that she may reach her full potential and be a glorious reflection of Christ here on earth, to be a channel of His love to the lost.
In the same way, the husband should care for the needs and desires of his wife, as if he were caring for himself. He should see to her every need—physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual. He should support her in her pursuit of her dreams, that she may feel fulfilled as a person and as a child of God. When he does all these, she will be a gloriously beautiful reflection of himself, and moreso of God. In a profound way, this fulfills Genesis 2:24, for the condition of the wife and the family is a reflection of the character of the husband, just as the condition of the Church is a reflection of the Christ who saved her and brought her to Himself.
A living parable
You may be wondering why I speak of husbands and wives when I am just a boyfriend. It is because to me, a boyfriend is a husband in training, just as a girlfriend is a wife in training. For what is the point of being a boyfriend and having a girlfriend if I do not have marriage in mind for her? To think anything less is to make a mockery, a plaything, out of one of the most beautiful gifts given by God to us humans: romantic love. The courtship stage is a period where Rita and I explore the possibility of being married to one another, and thus we strive to know each other ever so deeply whenever we are together. We seek to build a deep friendship that would be the foundation of our love, so that when the fires of passion have cooled, we would still want to be with each other because we are the closest of friends. And above all, we seek to know God more deeply, for He is the author and perfecter not only of our faith, but also of our relationship that would glorify His name before all the world.
I speak of this in the Spirit of God because I follow Christ. And if I were to love this wonderful daughter of the Father, then I must seek to become more like His Son Jesus. He has set for me the standard of Ephesians 5:22-33, and by His grace I will be up to that standard. And thus far, God has given me a love for her of such passion and intensity that I would be eternally grateful for the privilege of laying down my life to see that she be happy, fulfilled and well cared for. This relationship that God has given to us would be a reflection of God’s love to us and of our love for Him, and of how He loves each and every one of us.
Brothers and sisters, especially brothers, God calls us to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ, especially in our relationships with our wives and girlfreinds, as the case may be. Sisters, God calls you not to blind and mindless obedience, but to supportive and loving submission to your husbands and boyfriends—as the case may be—as your act of obedience to the Lord. To those of you who are waiting and looking for that significant other to be given to you, look to Jesus and how He loves you. May His love for the church be the standard by which we love one another, not just as romantic partners, but as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.