By Dave Zuleger
The idea of love is talked about often, dreamed about even more, and the subject of all sorts of songs, shows, and movies. But, what does love really mean? What does it really look like on the ground in the hardest, darkest moments of life?
It’s easy to picture what love is in the grand engagement, the perfect honeymoon, or the times when finances are stable and everyone is healthy. But, what about in the conflict, the poverty, the depression, and the pain?
A Holy Design
In Genesis 1:26-28 we’re told that husband and wife, man and woman are both made in the image of God with equal worth and value in order partner together to spread the glory of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.
Then, in Genesis 2:15 the man was given his particular, unique role in the Garden: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” He was to nourish and to guard. He was to provide and protect. Several verses later, the woman is made from his side and he sings the first song in the Bible:
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)
Here was one worth providing for and protecting. Here was one he would be willing to lay his life down for. All was well. Perfect fellowship with God and each other. Naked and unashamed. What could possibly go wrong?
A Horrible Distance
But along comes the snake – the Devil – to deceive the woman, while the man who was “with her” stood and watched (Gen 3:1–8). In this moment, he doesn’t protect her or lay down his life for her. Instead, he passively follows her into sin, disobeying God’s word, abdicating his servant leadership, and then passive-aggressively blaming God (3:12) for giving him such a woman – even though he was writing songs about her just a few verses earlier.
A horrible distance is created between man and God and between husband and wife. Sin had arrived, they had spurned the glory of God, and nothing would ever be the same.
A Holy Deliverer
Yet, the rest of the Bible is the story of God fulfilling his promise to send an offspring of the woman who would crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15). As we read our Bibles, we . find that Jesus is the promised offspring (cf. Gal 4:4). Here we see love personified in the hardest of times. That is, Jesus comes in the muck and mire – into our brokenness of sin. He lives the perfect life we could never live (Hebrews 4:15), dies the death we deserved to die to bring many sons and daughters to glory by his blood (Hebrews 2:10).
Jesus had obeyed perfectly, delighting at all times in the glory of God, and made a way to close the distance between man and God. In other words, the only way to bridge the gap between a holy God and sinful man is the cross of Christ for all who would believe. The bloody, sacrificial love at the cross is the picture of love we are given in the Bible.
A Husbands Design
When we turn to Ephesians 5:32-33, we are told that marriage was always supposed to point to the love Christ had for the Church. Ephesians 5:25 makes the calling of husbands explicit: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Notice the calling inherent in this text. We are called to die to ourselves for the good of our wives. This looks really romantic in the movies. Grand chases in airports. Knights valiantly fighting battles to win the princess. But, what about when it doesn’t look so great? What about when there’s lots of conflict and you’re the one that messed up? What does love look like when finances are tight and hard conversations are necessary? Or when sickness hits and life is no longer easy, but every day feels like a grueling marathon? It can be easy in these harder moments to think self-preserving or self-serving thoughts. It can be easy to justify our sins. It can be easy to be harsh or frustrated.
But, Jesus wasn’t self-serving when it was hard. Jesus wasn’t self-preserving when life was difficult. Jesus wasn’t harsh or frustrated in the midst of pain. Instead, Jesus looked our worst in the face, went to the cross, and took on the wrath of God in our place. When Jesus’ life was tough, love looked like a cross.
Husbands, the key to being able to love your wives as Christ loved the church is to first be overwhelmed by how you have been loved by Christ. He has been tender when he could have been harsh. He lived with us in an understanding way, just as we are called to live with our wives (1 Peter 3:7). He knew we were dust, moved toward us in mercy, and called us to rest in him.
A Happy Duty
Husbands, this is our calling. It’s a high one. We don’t want to shy away from this. No one else gets to be the husband to your wife. No one else gets to point her to the humble, servant love of Jesus like you do. This is a duty – a call to take up our cross, follow our king, and obey.
However, loving our wives like Christ loved the church is not a lamentable duty. It’s a happy privilege. As we enter into this calling, we learn more and more about the sacrifice of our Savior who died for us and promised to give us the Holy Spirit to help us. Every time we sacrificially love our wife we are pointing to the amazing grace of God at work in us – a grace that reminds us Jesus is real and we’ll be with him at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb one day soon. And every time we fail, it is a reminder of how perfect the love of Jesus is for us and we confess our sins and ask for his help to reflect him better tomorrow. What could be happier than this joyful duty to enter into a story that reminds the world – and us – of the perfect love of Jesus?
So, husbands, let’s lay down our pride and love in the strength Jesus supplies for the sake of his name and the good of our precious brides.