“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…”
I often recall a scene from The Brothers Karamozov. A wealthy woman asks a monk how she can know if God exists. He tells her this can only happen as she practices active love. She admits that she sometimes dreams of a life of service to others, but then she thinks how ungrateful people will be. So those dreams vanish. He responds, “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”
Paul moves his focus from the husband to the wife as he writes, Husbands, love your wives. This may sound natural and easy. But then Paul quickly continues the analogy between human marriage and the relationship between Jesus and the church. The husband should love as Christ loved the church. And what does this love involve? Jesus gave himself for her.
Love gives. Again, this may seem easy. A man may say, “I will give all sorts of things to my wife. I will provide her with a decent lifestyle, a reliable vehicle, and regular vacations.” This is all well and good, but love is much more than that. When you give to someone, you give something of yourself, whether it is your desires, goals, priorities, or comfort.
As wise people have said, love is dying. When you love another person, you die to whatever you want for your life. Again, you may read this and think, “Yes! If my wife is ever seized by scofflaws and tied to railroad tracks before the approach of an oncoming train, I will sacrifice my life to rescue her!” But you probably will not need to do that. You will need to…
> Give the time, attention, and energy it takes to encourage her after a devastating day.
> Give the necessary effort to settle down a crying child in the middle of the night.
> Give the inconvenience of smashing a bug because she is so freaked out by them.
> Give the hassle of cleaning up a huge mess in the kitchen.
> Give the frustration of stopping at the store for a weird food you despise.
> Give the blessing of caring for her aging parents.
> Give the gift of forgiveness when she is unkind to you.
The examples are endless. You may read Paul’s call to submission and think, “This means I can do whatever I want!” But now you must read Paul’s call to love and realize, “This means I must give of myself for her wants and needs.” You never want to enable her to sin, and she should give to you, too. But the daily attitude of the husband should be, “How can I love my wife by giving of myself on her behalf?”
Giving is not just for romantic or dramatic moments. Giving is the real heart of the husband’s call, every day and in every way. Will you devote yourself to this hard thing?