I believe the primary job description for husbands in the Bible can be found in Ephesians 5:25-26.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word…”
I appreciate how God gets right to the point. It is not something that I am proud of, but there are times in my relationship with Amy that I become impatient for her to get to the point in a conversation. Land the plane, honey. I am particularly bad at this when we are talking on the phone. This is a fairly common male characteristic. We like to get to the point. Keep extraneous stuff to a minimum and just tell me what I need to know. God made men and He knows how we work. So, He gets right to the point. In just two verses, God encapsulates the overarching mission for husbands, and does so with three clear purpose-statements.
Purpose #1: Love your wife
One of the ways that the enemy attacks Christianity is to accuse the Bible of teaching male dominance and female subservience. Some go so far as to say that the Bible is abusive to women. This is absurd on every front. For starters, get out your history book and look at what has happened to the value and dignity of women in every country where Christianity has taken root. The more Christian a culture becomes, the more women are honored, blessed, free, cherished, and protected.[i]
Look at how clear God is about h ow we as husbands are to treat our wives. What is the first command He gives a husband? What is your first role? Love your wife.
Unfortunately, our culture has robbed us of biblical understanding of what it means to love someone. Love has become synonymous with “the warm fuzzies,” lust, or some combination of the two. So people talk about falling in love (ie, getting a lot of warm fuzzies and you can’t keep your hands off each other), and falling out of love (ie, losing the warm fuzzies, and the person’s touch is revolting to you). When most people use the word love, they should really be using the word like. In marriage, there are times that we really like each other, and other times when we don’t like each other at all. Feelings of like rise and fall in any relationship, because we treat each other in extremely kind and extremely unkind ways as we move through our lives.
The first bullet on your job description, your first purpose according to God is to love your wife. In the Greek language there are three primary words which are often translated into English as love.
The word eros described the passionate, physical, and sexual expression of affection between two people. Phileo was the word they used to express companionship, friendship, and the enjoyment we feel when we are together with people with whom we share common interests and values. Agape was their word for committed, self-sacrificing love that gives preference to others. As you might expect, when Paul instructs a husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church, he uses the last of those three Greek words.[ii]
Thankfully, God gives us a full definition of what this agape love is all about in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV)
Loving someone is a commitment of action and attitude. It is not an overused cliché to say that love is a choice. In my desk drawer at my office I have a card that reads:
“When it comes to Amy I am patient. When it comes to Amy I am kind. I don’t envy her. I don’t boast around her. I am not proud with her. I am not rude to her. I don’t try and get what I want and I am not easily angered. I keep no record of the wrong things she has done. I don’t delight when bad things happen to her and I do rejoice when good things happen to her. I always protect her, always trust her, always hope in her, and I never tire of doing any of these things.”
Is what I have written on that card a true and accurate description of how I love Amy? No way! But it is a powerful daily reminder to me that if I tell my wife that I love her, this is what I am saying, because this is what love is, according to God.
This card is also a daily reminder to me that if I want to love Amy (and I do), that I do not have the strength of will or the nobility of character to pull it off. This mission to be a godly husband…I just don’t have it in me. I struggle with too much sin, and my character is too broken to succeed. This drives me to my knees, and keeps me desperately seeking the power of the Holy Spirit to transform my character, and enable me to love Amy God’s way.
Do you feel the same way? Are you clear in your own heart and mind that the bar God is calling you to get over cannot be cleared without supernatural transformation? If you think you have it in you to be a godly husband, either you don’t know what God desires, or you have set the bar way too low.
Growing in Love
Look again at the list of actions and attitudes that comprise true love. There are seven positive (do) elements, such as being patient. There are eight negative (do not) elements, s, such as not being easily angered. True love is as much about what we do, as what we do not do. As you read them through, identify which aspect of love God has enabled you to be most skilled, and which the aspect in which you most need to grow.
- Not envying
- Not boasting
- Not being arrogant
- Not being rude
- Not seeking what you want
- Not being easily angered
- Not keeping track of the wrong things your wife has done
- Not delighting in evil and suffering
- Rejoicing with truth and blessing
The more you do these things, the more you love your wife. The less you do these things the less you love your wife. Your feelings are not the measurement of your love. Your daily actions and attitudes are. I struggle with a lot of these, but patience would probably be at the top of the list. This character flaw in me is exacerbated when I am multi-tasking. If I am trying to check-my-email-help-clean-the-kitchen-watch-the-kids-and-keep-an-eye-on-the-news, I am frequently impatient with Amy. My impatience then can become rudeness.
One area where God has blessed Amy and me as we seek true love in our relationship is “not keeping a record of wrongs.” My mother, from as early as I can remember, taught me to practice Ephesians 4:26, “…do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” She never let my brother and I go to bed without resolving any conflict we may have had during the day and asking for each other’s forgiveness. There have been many times in our fifteen years of marriage where Amy or I wanted to hang on to our hurt or anger from the day. The forces of evil love to tempt us to roll to the far side of the bed, turn our back on our spouse and harden our hearts. It has required some very late nights of conversation, honesty, tears, and repentance.
For a serious challenge, ask your wife to share with you the three things on God’s love list that you do best, and the three in which she feels you need more growth. Thank her for her encouragement, and listen carefully to her concerns.