One of the very famous commands to married men is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The bulk of this letter is dedicated to instructing Christians on how to handle human relationships, charging husbands specifically to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church …..” – Ephesians 5:25.
It wouldn’t be surprising if more women than men carry this verse around; I guess more husbands than wives remember the command “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” – Ephesians 5:22.
The thought of loving anyone the same way Christ loved the Church is stupendous. If you think of it, the mystery is in how it is both the hardest thing to do and also a possibility. It is hard because it requires of a fallen human being to emulate Christ whom we know to be perfect and never sinned, and it is possible because this very Christ gives the empowerment to do it.
Therefore, we do not despair at the thought of how huge the task is, but rather we find hope in the strength of the God who calls us to such a lofty standard.
The Humble Pie
I remember being asked to contribute to a discussion on a TV show last year about what it means for a husband to love like Christ. I gladly seized the opportunity and armed with points I had gotten from my private moments with the Lord, I gave what I thought was an excellent effort.
A couple of days later, something happened that radically transformed my understanding of this ‘loving like Christ’ thing. My wife seemed unhappy one evening and when I inquired why, she pointed out that I had grown distant. She was worried I was becoming a different man. More succinctly, she was deeply concerned her husband was losing interest in her!
Until then, if you asked me, I would have honestly assured you we were fine – thriving even. I thought quite impressively of myself as a husband. I was doing better than I had in months making sure that her material needs were met. I would always be home early, often times even earlier. I was not thinking of any other woman, let alone seeing one.
What more would a wife ask for? It seems my wife, as would any other woman was finding these things most men find impressive quite unsatisfactory. She was unhappy, and that pointed to huge holes in my efforts to love her like Christ loved His Church.
How Christ Loved the Church
Often times when we think about Christ’s love for the Church, such things like His sacrifice on the Cross will stand out. The fact that He faithfully provides for His bride necessitates that anyone willing to love his wife with His kind of love will provide for her faithfully also.
We can however miss so much when we fail to consider the intensity of the Lord’s actions, equaling His provision for His church with merely making sure material needs are supplied to our wives each day. Christ’s is the kind of love that goes to the extremes, and we do not love like He does when we settle for the bare minimum.
Consider these two passages describing what He has done for His Church;
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us” – Ephesians 1:7-8.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” – 1 John 3:1.
Both Paul and John use the word lavish, which means to expend or bestow profusely in describing what God has accomplished for His Church. It communicates an excess, beyond what would have been deemed enough.
This is consistent of God throughout history. He never stopped at blessing the Israelites with land for example, but promised to also open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on their land in season and to bless all the work of their hands – Deuteronomy 28:12.
A husband who loves his wife like Christ loves His Church has to go the extra mile. He has to do more than what is basic of a husband. The fact that a husband provides, and protects, and does all things required of husbands will not satisfy his wife until these things have the feel of lavishness in them.
The Little Things are the Lavish Ones
Most people might mistake this for an urge to work harder and provide more. Quite to the contrary, many wives in marriages with great material wealth happen to be some of the saddest. When my wife expressed her sadness, she was not bemoaning my failure to provide food; she was bemoaning my failure to make her heart merry.
It was not a lazy husband who wasn’t working hard enough that she was finding frustrating but a hardworking husband buried more into his work than investing in our relationship. Slowly I was forgetting some very meaningful truths. I was forgetting that physically protecting her with shelter in a safe neighborhood does not compensate for failing to protect her soul with a genuine “How was your day honey?” served every other evening.
I was forgetting that unfaithfulness with work (tones of time spent on the phone and laptop) will hurt her just as much as unfaithfulness with another woman because both steal from the attention that is rightfully hers.
I was embracing a more boardroom approach to our conversations, filling them with work and development plans for our family, while slowly losing grip of the silly bedroom conversations that would have her laughing to tears.
Overcome the Danger of Familiarity
A lavish effort is not the one that showers a wife with holiday trips and treats her every other evening. It is the one that does the little things. It may never give her gifts every other day, but it goes the lengths to surprise her. It works to please her, for her pleasure becomes the man’s delight.
That is exactly how God loves His Church. He never stops at meeting what would be our basic needs only. He goes the distance to lavish us with gifts for our pleasure. He for example did not give us food for our physical bodies only, but gifted us with tongues for the pleasure of taste.
It is familiarity however that stands in the way of men pursuing these little things. It makes it feel needless to ask her how she is over lunch because you know where she is. Familiarity makes it feel unnecessary to send her that “I love you, and I hope that satisfies you more than the nyama choma you’ve had for lunch” because “she must already know I love her.”
When your fingers no more text her because of familiarity, soon you will require exceeding motivation to touch that beautiful body of hers with the very hands you once couldn’t keep to yourself.
We must fight familiarity if we are to love our wives like Christ loves His Church because Christ has never once stopped seeing the importance of His bride because he found her too familiar. He has never once found our sincere prayers too usual that He stopped caring to listen, or thought it too obvious that we need breath that He stopped supplying it.
On the contrary, He has only grown more fondness for us the longer we’ve been around Him, because He draws nearer to those that draw near Him – James 4:8.
Therefore husband, be careful that you are not obsessed with the major responsibilities of your marriage till you neglect the little things that ultimately make the wheel turn. Make every effort to meet your wife’s needs, but don’t stop until she is truly pleased. And the Lord God who loves perfectly will grow you in perfect love for your wife!