Every night, my wife and I have the same snack just before going to bed: a sliced apple and peanut butter. More times than not, as Gina is cleaning up some paper work she was doing, I am the one preparing the snack. And every night I face the same appalling battle.
You see, no two apples are exactly the same size. When they are sliced and placed on the plate, the question of which apple belongs to me must be answered. And there the battle starts. It's not one of those life-altering battles that define the destiny of nations. It is, however, the type of daily battle that defines the character of a man.
I'd like to think that I would take a bullet to save Gina's life. I'd like to think that I would gladly trade my own freedom if it would provide for hers. However, when it comes to apples, somehow doubt and selfishness erupt out of my heart.
Such is the battle for being a godly husband. It doesn't often occur on the battlefield of major issues; it is on the battlefield of thousands of minor ones. How do we determine what decisions, perspectives, and actions are best? We could ask ourselves the popular bumper sticker question: "What would Jesus do?" But let's answer the question that the Bible seems to pose: "What did Jesus do?"
The standard is set
Paul is the one who nudges all husbands in this direction. In the book of Ephesians, he gives this amazingly weighty command:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church … (Ephesians 5:25)
The command goes out to all husbands, everywhere and at all times. So, as we wrestle with the weight of such a command, we all must ask the obvious question. It is not: "How would Christ love the church?" It is: "How does Christ love the church?" We needn't wonder or postulate. All we've got to do is observe.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, Christ actively loves His church. We could never contain all of the ways He does so in a single article. So let's proceed in answering this big question by asking three more, first of Christ, then of us:
- What does He do for the church? (What should I do for my wife?)
- What does He think of the church? (What should I think of my wife?)
- What has He become for the church? (What should I become for my wife?)
As we answer these questions, we will all understand more fully not what Jesus would do, but what He did do. In that, we have our living model for how we are to love our wives. Don't let the size of the journey ahead of us discourage you. Every journey begins with one step. Let's have the courage to take that first step together.
What does He do for the church?
It has been widely accepted that Christ's activity on behalf of the church can be summarized in these three functional titles: Prophet, Priest and King. A brief look at each will give us keen insight into our role as husbands.
Christ as Prophet: A prophet is someone who brings forth the Word of God to mankind. He is responsible for accurately discerning what God is saying and communicating that to others. Christ performed this prophetic role perfectly in two ways. First, He accurately spoke and taught the Word and words of God to others. Second, He was the actual expression of God and the Word made flesh.
The Husband as Prophet: We have the amazing privilege of bringing forth the Word of God to our wives. While this might involve some actual Bible-teaching time, we need to see the various other forms this should take. We can proclaim His Word and His will as we counsel our wives, as we make family decisions and as we plan for our family's future. The common ingredient in all of its forms is God's Word. Without the Word of God, a prophet has nothing to say; his words are empty and meaningless.
In addition to bringing forth the Word in our actions, we too must personify the Word made flesh in us. We must model the truth we are teaching. We must personify what we desire our wives and our marriages to become. Without personally living the truth we proclaim, we can expect no higher praise from Christ than the Pharisees received. (Matthew 23:2-4)
Christ as Priest
: A priest is an intercessor: someone who seeks God on behalf of someone else. As Priest, Jesus is constantly seeking God on our behalf. Through Him, we are made holy, righteous, and acceptable to God. Yet, this Priest is different from all others in that He did not sacrifice a lamb, dove, or bull. This Priest sacrificed Himself on our behalf.
The Husband as Priest: As we love our wives, we must serve as priest. Our wives and marriages need prayer. We have the privilege and duty of petitioning God on their behalf. We should pray for their purity, their protection, their joy, their faith, and their burdens. We should pray for their success as a wife, as a mother, and as a woman of God.
We must again follow Christ's example and allow our priestly sacrifice to be our very selves. Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus looked past His own sacrifice to the joy that would occur on the other side. With that in mind, look at all that your wife could become. Consider what God might want to do with her, in her, and through her. And, for that joy set before you, willingly endure when you are called to sacrifice yourself. In so doing, you will love your wife as Christ loves His church.
Christ as King: A king is someone who is supreme or preeminent. As our King, Christ deserves our honor, our praise, our obedience, and our servitude. He is in charge … the undisputed leader of the church. Paul speaks many times of Jesus as the head of the church. Yet, while this King rules and reigns, He also serves and ministers to His people. His rule is peculiar in that He models leadership by serving. He says that the greatest among His people will be those who serve. He also is an accessible King. In many courts throughout history, subjects were never permitted to be in the presence of their king. King Jesus invites us in; He leaves open the door to His throne room.
The Husband as King: Ephesians 5:23 makes it clear; the husband is the head of the wife. In essence, kingship undeniably belongs to the husband. As we embrace that, we as husbands must lead. We must lead clearly and boldly. We must be out there on the edge looking to the provision and the protection of our kingdom. To do less is to fall short of our calling to headship. The privilege is ours to rule our home.
However, we are not called simply to take our crowns and dominate our wives. We must rule as Christ rules … with humility. He modeled precisely how He wants us to love our wives. As our King, Christ knelt and washed the feet of His disciples. We must follow His example and serve. Lead boldly, yet serve. Never let the brawn of your leadership outweigh the sacrifice of your leadership. Christ kept them in perfect balance; that is our calling as well.
What does He think of the church?
At various times throughout the past 2000 years, the church has reflected very poorly on Jesus. It has bungled both its doctrine and its practice. During one decade, it is too passive and tolerant; during another it is too judgmental and legalistic. In the middle ages, its pursuit of the lost led to the atrocity of the Crusades. In another age, its indifference to the lost led to failure in spreading the gospel.
With all of the embarrassment the church has caused, you might think that Jesus would rather disassociate with the church. Surely, He hesitates to admit His affiliation, right? Wrong. Through these select verses, take a look at what He thinks of the church.
But you [the church] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9)
…I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18b)
…that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:27)
He goes on to call the church His bride, His body, and His people. Even in His reproof, we are called His flock and He readily refers to Himself as our Lord, the Shepherd of the sheep. And try as we might to lose His devotion, He refuses to turn from us:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
What should I think of my wife? Too often we fall into the trap of allowing our wife's actions to determine what we think of her. We allow her to become less lovely to us when her actions are not lovely. We allow our love to wane when the romance fades and the honeymoon feelings disappear. We allow our thoughts to be shaped in accordance with our changing circumstances. This is not how Christ loves the church.
If we are going to follow His model, we must choose a different way of thinking. We must think of her as Christ does the church. Regardless of the quality of our relationship, Gina is my bride. As members of one flesh, she is in essence my body. And by the joining of two becoming one, she is forever my people.
Once you honestly ponder the person your wife is, I'm certain that you will discover plenty of wonderful traits that you have forgotten to think of. But reach further and higher than that. Think of your wife from a higher position; think of her as Christ thinks of the church: as complete, as made perfect, as chosen by God.
Practically speaking, think of her as perfectly designed by God for your good. As Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, says, marriage is not necessarily designed for your happiness but for your holiness. This is true of your wife as well. So, let your thoughts be made holy. Think of her as lovely, desirous, and pure. As you do, you will be thinking of her as Christ thinks of the church.
What has He become for the church?
Each of us is known by our names and roles. Personally, I am known both as Rob and as Daddy. I am a husband, father, friend, teacher, employee, etc. You could create your own list for your names and roles. Christ, too, has names and roles, each of which reflects a different facet of His being. All of which reflect what He is for the church. Consider some of the better known names and roles of Christ.
- A Strong Tower (Proverbs 18:10)
- Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)
- Present Help in Times of Trouble (Psalm 46:1)
- The God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13)
- Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11)
- Gracious and Merciful God (Nehemiah 9:31)
Because of who He is and what He has done on our behalf, Christ has become all of these and much, much more for the church. These are not just functions that Jesus performs, they are His character, His very make up.
I can run to Christ not because He provides a strong tower, but because He is one. I can trust Him not because He gives wonderful counsel, but because being a Wonderful Counselor is His very character … it's who He is.
What should I become for my wife? It is far better to actually be faithful than it is simply to refrain from extra-marital activity. It is far better to be gracious than it is simply to keep your mouth shut. Being is far better than just doing. Jesus does not simply remain committed to His church, He personifies faithfulness. He doesn't just show mercy, He becomes mercy.
In order to love our wives well, we must allow God to develop our character at its deepest levels. We must allow Him to work on us, to change us, and to build us into the men he desires us to be. Then, in response to this renewing work, we must live consistently with all we profess. This is precisely what Christ did when He walked the earth. He lived in perfect harmony with what He said and professed to believe.
It is Christ's consistency that makes Him the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Knowing He'll never change gives us all the confidence to trust and follow Him. As husbands, we must establish a similar lifestyle of consistency.
Many may ask, "What does this look like?" It may look the same on the outside, but the difference is as night and day on the inside. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God. Yet Romans 7:18 says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not." In short, we are called to accomplish something (imitate God) that we cannot do because we lack the goodness to do it.
This is where the great provision from God comes in. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22-23 that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." As we live according to the Spirit and not according to our own efforts and desires, we are able to actually become in our hearts and our characters what we desire to live out. And the greatest beneficiary of this transformation will be your wife.
The battle lines are drawn
In the warfare that we face as husbands, we must remember that victory is not necessarily in the major issues of life and liberty. It is in the minor issues of sliced apples and peanut butter. It is not when the crowds are amassed; it is when you are completely alone. It is not when you are fulfilling your wife's wishes; it is when you are anticipating and meeting them. It is not in the size of your bank account; it is in the willingness to lay yourself down to be sacrificed.
Loving your wife as Christ loves the church is a very high calling—one that could stop a freight train. Remember, God is the One who has called you to it. He is the One who brought you and your wife together. He is the One who has given His Spirit to help you win at your calling as a husband.
Don't be crushed by the weight of it; but don't settle for anything less than all of it. As you embrace your calling, your wife will feel the difference. And you will feel the smile of your Savior.
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