When it comes to marriage, most American adults will eventually say, "I do." The unfortunate part is many of them will also eventually say, "I don't." But, as Robert Anderson put it, "In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find and continue to find grounds for marriage."
So I want to give you grounds for a healthy, satisfying marriage, starting with the husband's role in marriage as defined by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5. This role can be summed up by a single word: love. Let's explore what kind of love that is to be:
1. It is a singular love: "Husbands, love your wives" (v. 25). The Greek word here for love is agape, the most far-reaching, highest quality love. And it's in the present active imperative, meaning, "Husbands, be constantly, actively, presently loving your wives." Yes, the husband is the head of the home (see v. 23), but he is to be a lover as well as a leader.
2. It is a sacrificial love: "Love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" (v. 25). Paul here took marriage and compared it to the highest, most selfless act of love in history: what Jesus did on the cross. And what motivated Jesus to do it? Sacrificial love. This kind of love is not a flush of emotion or a shot of adrenaline; it's an active choice.
3. It is a sanctifying love. Paul went on to explain that Christ gave Himself for the church "that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (vv. 26-27). In this analogy, the husband, so to speak, forgives his wife of her past and then sanctifies her, presenting her to the Lord and to himself. He's responsible for setting the temperature of forgiveness, love, and sanctification in the home.
4. It is a sensitive love: "Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church" (vv. 28-29). A man's wife is an extension of himself (see Genesis 2:23), thus he should care sensitively for her like he cares for himself.
5. It is a shatterproof love—a permanent, forever love: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (v. 31). Paul here was quoting Genesis 2:24, which was written over a thousand years before his time. In other words, he was saying that what God once said, God still says: a man is to be permanently joined to his wife (see Matthew 19:6).
6. It is a showcase love: "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (v. 32). When it comes down to it, a husband's love should be all these things because marriage is an illustration of how Jesus loves His church. It makes redemption visible.
So to all the husbands out there, let's step up and decide to be strong, tender leaders who love our wives well, keeping in mind that a good Christian marriage is a witness to the world of the God we say we serve.