This post is a follow-up to the one I put up earlier in the week on Ephesians 5:21-33 and what the Bible teaches about gender roles in marriage – that husbands are to sacrificially love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives in turn are to submit to their husbands. But what does that look like in practice?
There wasn’t nearly enough space in the last post, so we thought we’d do some follow up and dig a little deeper. This post is for husbands (although it would still be good for women to read), and my lovely wife Alex is going to write one for wives that we’ll publish in a couple of days.
The Bible’s teaching on marriage is that men are to lovingly and self-sacrificially lay down their own interests, desires, even their lives, for the good of their wives. Men are to put their wives first in all things. It’s a beautiful picture. But it’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s hard to even know what it looks like in practice.
Putting it into Practice
What does it mean that we put our wives first? Does it mean that you always watch the movies that she likes? Does it mean that you always go to her favourite restaurant?
I’m convinced that if we take the Bible seriously, we discover that loving our wives best does not simply mean putting her desires before our own, her preferences first, or even her happiness before ours (although it may often involve these things), but it’s rather about putting her holiness first on our priority list.
Let’s have a closer look at Ephesians 5:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Do you see what is going on here? The clear purpose of Christ’s self-sacrificial love for the church was to make her holy. And in the same way, for us to love our wives self-sacrificially means that we prioritise above all else the holiness of our wives.
Putting Her Holiness First
This puts a pretty specific spin on the job description of a husband. This is where we discover that men need to be spiritual leaders and initiators in their families, so that they might seek the holiness and sanctification of their wives and children.
What might it look life for you to love your wife and put her holiness first?
Pray with her
In the weeks prior to my starting to date Alex, one of my mentors told me that he and his wife had committed to pray together every day of their lives. Even if they’re apart, they’ll make sure they skype or call so that they can pray together. That is awesome. This is one huge way that he is leading his wife spiritually and helping her to be holy.
Read the Bible with her
You’ll notice that in Ephesians 5:26 we’re told that Christ makes the church holy “by the washing with water through the word.” It’s God’s Word that sanctifies us (John 17:17). So one foundational way that we can be loving our wives is by reading the Bible with them. You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to have all the answers. Just open the Bible with your wife and read a passage together. Talk about it, and pray. Too easy.
One thing Alex and I have started trying to do is reading the next Sunday’s sermon passage ahead of time together so that we’ll be more receptive when we hear it. Why not give that a shot?
Make church a priority
Participating in a God-honouring church is a huge help in our ongoing growth, so one way that we as husbands can love our wives is to make church a priority. Go, serve, be involved. Love your wife.
These are just a couple of concrete ways that you might start making your wife’s holiness a priority, but there are endless ways that you could be doing it. It could be noticeable things like those mentioned above, or it could simply be the way you talk, act, and think. The important thing is that we realise that this is our job as husbands. Being a husband is a huge privilege, but also a big responsibility.
Think about it. When you marry a woman, you become the most influential person in her life. For better or worse, no one is going to shape who your wife is over the course of her life more than you. We need to take this seriously. We can either do a lot of damage or a lot of good. So let’s make the most of this privilege and opportunity that God has given us, and by His grace, let’s strive to do the most good we can for our wives. Let’s seek their holiness in everything we do!
A lot of people want to say that gender roles are outdated, and that the headship/submission pattern of the Bible no longer applies. But if we discard the Bible’s teaching here, we not only throw away a great gift that God has given us for our marriages, but we also let men off the hook when it comes to their spiritual responsibility.
Being the head in a relationship doesn’t mean you get extra privileges or power. It means you get extra responsibility. A whole lot of people want to let us off the hook in the name of a falsely defined ‘equality’, but when we let that happen, it is our families who suffer the consequences. Our roles as husbands gives us the privilege of serving our families, serving our wives (and children) and seeking their holiness as our top priority.
It’s not an easy task, but it’s a good one. Husbands, love your wives.