The Bible teaches us the way a husband loves his wife is foundational to the well being of a marriage.
How is it that a husband is to love his wife? He is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph.5:25). A tall order, indeed, but one that when followed will cause a marriage to thrive according to God’s design.
But what does it mean for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church?
First, it means he is to love her unconditionally. When Jesus laid down His life for His people, He did not do it because there was any loveliness in them. They were depraved and without interest in Him. But God showed His love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom.5:8)
It’s in the same unconditional way that husbands are to love their wives. A husband is not to love his wife because of any certain qualities about her. He is to love her without reason at all. Even if she is selfish, manipulative, or cold toward Him. And with God’s Spirit working in his heart, he can.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. The day was originally named after several early Christian martyrs by the name of Valentine, and was established as a way to remember and encourage sacrificial love. The association between romantic love and Valentine’s Day was not introduced until the fourteenth century.
Today, couples will typically observe Valentine’s Day with small gifts, flowers, chocolates, or a night out for dinner. The observance of Valentine’s Day is an encouragement for most, but it does bring pain for many.
I’m thinking here mainly of those couples who realize that their marriage does not possess the love that it once did, or needs to. The question for these couples becomes, “How can we find love in our marriage?”
I believe the answer to this question very much falls on the attitude and actions of the husband.
The Bible tells us that the husband is the head of the wife (Eph.5:23). It does not tell us that the husband needs to be the head of his wife, but that he is. This truth has many applications, most basic which is this: wherever the head goes, the body will follow.
Many husbands will chart their course with their wives by reacting to her basic demeanor. So, if she is generally chilly in the relationship, so will he. But with this approach the relationship will likely remain cool, and probably get colder with time.
The husband needs to take another approach. He needs to act like the head that he is. He needs to continually approach his wife in a loving way — no matter what her demeanor. Quite often, this is absolutely all that needs to be done. When a woman sees that her man truly does love her, she doesn’t only thaw, but warms up quite quickly.
So, how does a husband take such action, especially when he may be struggling with his own bitterness toward his wife? By looking to Christ.
Christ is the model husband, and He demonstrates how to love in the way He gave Himself for His church. As Christ initiated that kind of love for His bride, so is any husband for his.
A practical place to start is by looking to the great love chapter, where we are told what love is. . .
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
~ 1 Corinthains 13:4-7
Any husband can apply these verses to his own marriage in a multitude of ways.
When a husband takes the initiative to show a love that is constant toward his wife, there is great likelihood that love will flourish in the marriage in a way that not only satisfies both the husband and the wife, but brings glory to God as well.
Why is love such a topic of interest? It’s because of the way God made us. God made you to receive and give love. First, in relationship to Him, and then in relationship to others.
Since God has designed love to be such a central part of our lives, it’s no wonder that the human heart dwells upon it and yearns to experience it. This has led to countless self-help books geared toward helping people to give and receive love.
But in all our consideration of love, it does us well to remember that the One who made us has Himself given the best direction regarding love. Here are some of the most basic lessons about love that the Bible brings us.
First, love takes initiative. A common hindrance to showing love is lack of initiative. The Bible reveals that love does not wait around to take a loving step toward others. God Himself shows us this in that “. . .while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8). God did not wait for us to become worthy of love before He gave it. He took the initiative. Our love is to do the same.
Second, love is sacrificial. Many speak of love, but genuine love costs something. Again, God is our model. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. . . (Jn.3:16). “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life. . . (Jn.15:13). As we look to this pattern, we learn what real love is like. It doesn’t look around for others to lay down their lives for us, but looks for opportunities to give of oneself for others.
Third, love does not fear. Often we find ourselves prevented from expressing love as we know we should because we’re afraid. We think, “What if I’m rejected or what I do is not appreciated?” These are reasonable questions, but we need to remember, “There is no fear in love” (1 Jn.4:18). Do not let fear of how another may respond keep you from reaching out in love.
Fourth, love is the greatest of God’s gifts. While articulate speech, vast knowledge, and an abundance of possessions may get attention, they are all surpassed by love. In fact, the Bible tells us that without love, the others gifts we have are worthless (1 Cor.13). What does this mean for us? When we speak, when we teach, when we give, it must all be done in love.
Fifth, love is a mark of Christ’s disciples. All who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ are to bear the mark of His disciples, which is love. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn.13:35). We must not deceive ourselves in thinking that we are living in His way if we cannot bring ourselves to love those He puts in our path.
The kind of love that the Bible describes for us is not natural to us. But it is freely given to those who receive of His love and walk in it.