Perhaps as many as ninety percent of those who get divorced confess that one reason for the breakup of their marriage was the unbearable loneliness of living together but being far apart. The reason a person neglects his or her spouse or family, contributing to loneliness within a marriage, are numerous. We cannot chart these reasons; but a number of things happen as a result of this neglect, and we can trace those.
Many respond to the loneliness they feel in their marriage by:
- Burying themselves in work
- Becoming overly involved in church work or community and volunteer organizations
- Suffering depression
- Making friends with people of the opposite sex outside the marriage—often leading to infidelity
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Leaving the home—desertion
These responses to the loneliness of a marriage that is off-track happen throughout our society; and the fact that they may be Christians does not make a couple immune.
If you are a man who wants to mature his marriage, then God has something to say to you. A key verse in Ephesians 5 deals with a husband’s responsibility to dispel loneliness in his home. It says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25).
First, Christ’s love is not romantic sentimentalism. Jesus Christ loves the Church realistically, and husbands are to love their wives realistically.
If Christ’s love were conditional, where would we be? He loves us in spite of who we are, in spite of whether we are “good.” That is the most overwhelming aspect of His love for us. He did not love me first, then find out later what I was like and decide if He would continue to love me. He loved me knowing all I would ever do to violate that love. And He keeps right on loving me and you, even to dying on the cross for us.
Second, Christ’s love is sacrificial. The Bible says that Jesus Christ counted the cost and gave Himself up for us. His love cost Him His life.
So many people today are trying to find a relationship that does not cost anything. They want to receive but are never willing to give. Many men love it when somebody preaches on the subject of a wife’s “submission” to her husband as found in Ephesians 5:21. But this passage clearly teaches the mutual submission of each one to the other. Love between a man and his wife is a constant giving of one to the other. There is a sense in which a “chain of command” in the home is reflected in Paul’s words, but it is also true and present right in this passage that we are to be constantly submitting to each other. Successful marriages occur when mutual submission is a constant ongoing process. They are the result of the blending and giving of ourselves, the determination that we will sacrifice whatever we have to for the sake of our loved ones and our relationships.
This brings us to our third principle. Christ loves the Church purposefully. He loves the Church in order “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). The purpose of His love is the development of the Church so that it can be all that He envisions it to be.
The purpose and motivation behind a man’s love for his wife should be that she can become all she can be as a person. This is opposed to the attitude of the man who tries to hold back any involvement or growth on the part of his wife. If he is threatened by any of her gifts or abilities, he does everything he can to stifle her. He shuts her down as a person until she begins to doubt her own worth.
Next, Christ loves the Church willingly. Does God love us because we are lovable? Absolutely not. He loves us because, in His divine prerogative, He wills to love us. In times past, in eternity past, God said, “I will love”—and He does.
Today the commonly accepted idea about love is this: If you don’t feel like it, you can’t do it. But that is totally counter to the truth. The truth is that feeling follows action; feeling follows the will. If I want to, I will. When I do, my feelings follow.
So let me repeat. The Bible tells us that Christ loves the Church because He wants to, because He wills to. If husbands are to love as Christ loves the Church, we are to love our wives because we want to, because we willingly choose to do the kinds of things our wives regard as loving. We are to perform the actions that go with love. When I was reading the letters to the churches in Revelation recently, something jumped out at me, probably because I was thinking about Christ’s love for the Church and how it applies to a husband’s love for his wife. The church in Ephesus is told that it has left its first love. Do you recall the prescription they are given for correcting what is wrong? Go back and “do the first works” (see Revelation 2:1-7).
Lastly, Christ loves the Church absolutely. We are told to love our wives as we love our own bodies (see Ephesians 5:28).
For many years, as I have studied this passage of Scripture and spoken on the subject to couples and young people, I thought this verse meant we are to love our wives just like we love or care about our own bodies. But that is not its full meaning. Paul is telling me that I am to love my wife because she is my body. She is part of me. When you get married, you become one flesh. Just as I will not neglect any part of me that hurts, I will not neglect my wife when she hurts. Together we share unity and oneness.
When we try to love our marriage partner realistically, sacrificially, purposefully, willingly, and absolutely, we begin to come into God’s plan; and without thinking of it or planning for it, we find our own needs being met too. Our realistic, sacrificial, purposeful, willing, absolute love comes back to us from our partners, and that is the payoff. Even though Christ has not promised us lives of ease without struggle or pain, He has promised us joy. Husband, love your wife as Christ loved the Church, and count it all joy.
Publication date: September 7, 2017
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