The clear scriptural mandate for all husbands is to love, lead, and serve their wives, as Christ does the church.
A Men Only Monday Post
God designed marriage to be a mysterious partnership, based on Paul’s description of the one-flesh marriage framework described in Ephesians 5:
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.
I recently started describing myself as a “megamysterian” to avoid the baggage-laden complementarian vs. egalitarian debate. For me, the only valid framework for solving the “profound mystery” of marriage comes from examining the relationship between Christ and the church.
Based on my understanding of God’s framework for marriage, I boil down it down to these three essentials: as husbands, we are to love, lead, and serve our wives.
Become a Bride
Scripture makes it clear that your primary responsibility toward your wife is to love her:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:24 (NIV)
That’s a high bar!
The biggest reason most of us don’t do better at loving our wives as Christ loves the church is that we don’t really know how Christ loves the church.
I’ve learned that if I want to learn to love Jenni well, I have to invest myself in knowing the love of Christ intimately. Our marriage grew to new levels of intimacy and passion when I spent time digging deep into the tremendous emotions of God toward me: deep love, fiery passion, intense zeal, undeserved grace, and a holy desire for intimacy. It was in this season I found that if I want to be a great husband, I must earn first learn to be a much-loved bride of Christ.
Men, embracing your bridal identity has nothing to do with the feminization of men that is prevalent in today’s society. Rather, I have found that it is only in the intimate knowledge of the love of your heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus, that you can truly know how to best love your wife. This is hugely important! A few chapters before Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, he explains that the love of Christ is so vast as to be unknowable, yet he goes on to say that getting to know it is the very key to a full life in God (Ephesians 3:17-20).Experiencing Jesus' love is the key to knowing what it means to love your wife with unconditional, passionate, pure, selfless love. Click To Tweet
Loving Your Wife
Loving your wife means loving her on her terms, not yours. Because the top marital needs of men and women tend to differ greatly, it’s likely that you’ll need to express love to her in ways that are very different from the ways you want love expressed to you. Loving your wife how she needs to be loved will require you to become a student of your wife, learning how to delight her beyond her wildest dreams. It also requires a daily, consistent demonstration of that love through things like showing tender care, maintaining emotional intimacy, and making sure she feels protected and safe at all times. This is not a quick fix or a silver bullet. It’s a lifestyle of loving as Jesus loves.
Check out this amazing description of Christ’s love from earlier in Ephesians 5, just before Paul tells you that this is what you are to emulate.
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
Don’t neglect the small things. Remember this truth: small expressions of genuine love, given daily, are much more impacting than grand gestures of love done one in a while. It’s the daily small gestures that mean the most, and these often are things that are the easiest to do. For Jenni, it’s making her tea even though I don’t drink tea, telling her I love her multiple time a day, smelling good for her, and paying attention to give her a lot of non-sexual touch throughout the day (one of her highest love languages). If you aren’t sure what would best say “I love you” to your wife, ask her! It still counts.
Leading Your Wife
In our current culture, the notion that husbands and wives have different roles in marriage is not a popular one. However, when I refer to roles in marriage, I’m not describing an organizational structure but the attitudes and responsibilities that point to how husbands and wives best serve each other. In Ephesians 5, Paul says a husband is the “head” of his wife. It’s hard to find a single word that accurately describes the “headship” responsibilities of husbands. I think of it not an organizational hierarchy, but more like leading by being out front – guiding, guarding, and protecting.
Whether you refer to it as “headship,” “leadership,” or “authority,” this responsibility to lead your wife must always be closely coupled to your responsibility to love her.Husbands: lead with love, as Jesus does. Without a good grip on the love part, the lead part can easily turn oppressive and self-serving. #leadwithlove Click To Tweet
The reason many people have a problem with the notion of husbands having leadership authority in marriage is that they have the wrong paradigm. The authority they think of is the tyrannical corporate boss, the corrupt politician, or the heavy-handed drill sergeant. We are all familiar with many examples of authority and power being used incorrectly. Unfortunately, instead of framing headship in the correct scriptural light, many toss out the notion altogether.
Not all husbands will take up their leadership authority, and not all husbands will wield it wisely or well. Regardless, I believe that the mantle of leadership is theirs nonetheless because I believe this authority is delegated from God the Father in accordance with his design for marriage. It is not a question of earning your authority, it is really a question of what you do with the authority you have already been granted.
One of the most common searches that lands people on my website is “husband refuses to lead” or variants on the same. This search is followed closely by some combination of the words “husband” and “dictator.” Your goal is to never give your wife a reason to Google either one!
Believe me when I say your wife probably longs for you to walk in your God-given authority. Yes, she wants you to lead her, but lead her with Christ-like love.
Serving Your Wife
Jesus came to serve and save the church through the ultimate sacrifice of giving his own life for her. Most of us husbands will never be called upon to serve our wives in this way, but we are called to serve them in the way we love, lead, and sacrifice for them on a daily basis.
How did Jesus serve those he loved? He washed their feet. He calmed their storms. He set them free from bondage. He led the way to the Father. He was full of grace and truth, light and life, and peace and joy.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV)
Leadership in your marriage is not about making all the decisions or telling your wife what to do. Leading your wife as Jesus does us means laying down your life for her, serving her, and relentlessly pursuing intimacy and connection with her. It means doing all in your power to see that your wife walks in her full God-given identity and fulfills the destiny God has on her life.Leading your wife as Jesus does us means laying down your life for her, serving her, and relentlessly pursuing intimacy and connection with her. #serve #leadwithlove Click To Tweet
My heart’s desire is to see millions of exemplary husbands loving, leading, and serving their wives, as Christ does the church.
Suggested further reading for husbands: