When you think of the biblically teaching on husbands and wives, what immediately comes to mind? To some, it may be the arguments behind the egalitarian/complementarian debate. For others, maybe a specific passage comes to mind. “Live with your wife in an understanding manner” is a popular one. Or perhaps the standard, “Husbands, love your wives.”
What most people forget is that not only is there a command, not only an illustration but also a purpose. Seriously, I hear it being tossed around often that men are to love their wives “as Christ loves the church.” But what I don’t hear being discussed is how this is. Oh, I hear talk about self-sacrifice, about being caring, about being patient – but the text itself is clear about what Paul has in mind.
The text reads:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:25-27)
Clearly the love husbands are to have for their wives is a sanctifying love. For those considering dating, perhaps one of the first questions to be asked by a woman is how the man is being sanctified himself. One of the questions that a man should ask himself is whether he is willing to bear the responsibility, and often difficulty, of involving himself in the sanctification of another. In a relationship, we must ask ourselves whether the relationship is aiding us in the process of sanctification, and if the activities help us to grow in holiness and love for the Lord. And when married, this is an expectation.
All to often people choose mates based on emotion. Let’s be honest; people seek the good-looking, the easy-going, the fun-loving, the humorous, the skilled, the popular, the fashionable, the accomplished – you name it. Do people look for the godly? Often that isn’t the most exciting, and in fact it at first seems to dull the fun in the lives of others. But marriage is not a game, not entertainment, and not a whim. It is a covenant, a commitment, a vow. It is not to pass the time and make it most exciting on earth, but to prepare us to enjoy heaven all the more.
Oh, I believe that godly relations are filled with the most love, joy, and peace. But I believe they are also filled with much hardship, difficulty, and pain as well. As iron sharpens iron, as silver is purified, as our bodies must be exhausted in order to be built up, so too must godly relationships. I can only hope that many young adults today catch this vision and distinguish themselves by godliness than by anything of the world. After all, our love for another will never exceed our love for the Lord.