Anyone who’s ever been in a romantic relationship knows how awesome, complicated, and just plain hard it can be. What if someone you trusted could make it simpler and easier for you?
I’m a guy. I like to keep things simple and straightforward. So I’m thankful for Ephesians 5:21-33, the Apostle Paul’s cheat sheet for marriage. There, he tells us guys the one thing we absolutely must do to have a successful marriage. If we do this, the other things tend to take care of themselves.
But even if you’re not married or in a relationship, you can do this in your other relationships as the best way to prepare.
It’s Really Not All That Hard To Understand…
Are you ready for the secret? Here it is:
‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (v.25).
Guys, if you’re married, you have to love your wife like Christ loved his people, the church. Paul then tells us more specifically what he has in mind – sacrifice. The kind of sacrifice that led Jesus to give himself up for us on the cross.
Are you disappointed? Were you hoping for something more exciting, something you hadn’t heard before?
As a recovering people-pleaser, I hate to disappoint others, but loving our wives sacrificially like Christ is the one thing that Paul says we absolutely must do in our marriages. In his big passage on marriage he could have said anything, but he said this. And only this.
… But It’s Incredibly Hard To Do
Early in our marriage, my wife noticed that a lot of the large pots and pans I cleaned weren’t very… clean. I didn’t like doing it and kind of raced through, often leaving little traces (maybe chunks) of food behind. She asked me to slow down and do a better job. ‘Sure, no problem’, I said.
When I cleaned the pots and pans after that, I tried to keep reminding myself to ‘do a better job’. But the results weren’t much better and we kept having the same argument. (‘You don’t understand! The food hides when I’m cleaning the pots and then mysteriously reveals itself when you look at it later!’)
I bet you can relate. On one level, you want to make sacrifices for your wife. To give her a living picture of what Christ did for you. But it rarely seems to happen.
How can something so simple be so hard?
The Place To Start
If we go back to the beginning of Ephesians 5, we read ‘Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (1-2). Paul’s instructions for our marriages are actually just one example of loving sacrificially like Jesus did, and he goes on to talk about parents and children, then masters and servants.
So the key to sacrificially loving our wives – or anyone, really – is to get, at an ever deeper level, how Jesus loved us. That’s how we become ‘imitators’ of him.
If we focus on just changing our behavior – cleaning the pots better, so to speak – the more fundamental part of who we are won’t change. We’ll remain selfish and that will keep popping up despite our best efforts.
Looking back, the pots weren’t getting any cleaner because I hadn’t really changed. Truth was, I didn’t want to slow down. I never admitted – to myself, Sharon or God – that I was just being selfish. I wanted to save a few seconds on the pots so I could do other things that were more important to me. My behavior wasn’t changing because my heart wasn’t changing.
Eventually, after another re-run of the same argument, I had a short conversation with God where I confessed my selfishness and asked for his help. I figured that, if Jesus gave his life for me, I could give a few extra seconds for my wife.
The whole conversation probably took 30 seconds, but it was an important step forward to real change. It’s not like I never missed another food particle, but the improvement was pretty dramatic. My behavior changed because my heart changed. And my heart changed because I saw Christ’s sacrificial love for me to a new degree.
So, there it is, guys. The one thing we absolutely, must do is sacrificially love our wives like Jesus loves us. Sometimes it will feel like death because, in a way, it is. But just like his death produced life for us, our (much) smaller sacrifices will be life-giving for our wives and marriages.
Questions for Reflection:
- Where is God asking you to live out Christ’s sacrificial love more in your own marriage?
- And, what would that look like?