Thursday, January 22, 2009

Heavenly-minded Husbands

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body" (Ephesians 5:25-30).

While it is women who usually get offended by the Ephesians text, and it is women who usually have their feet held to the fire concerning this text, I think the text has more to say to men than to women. I think men don't get offended by this text because those who preach it don't do a good enough job calling men to account for their cowardly, sickening, sappy, bratty, half-hearted, half-baked, half attempt at love.

It really is disgusting to hear women take a beating over their role in this text, only to hear an add on at the end of the sermon, "Oh yeah, husbands are supposed to love their wives like Christ loved the church." Yeah, naturally. Then pastors and husbands will say things like, "Actually, the husband has the hard part in this text, because he has to love like Christ." Well, when is he going to get around to it? While it's true that men have the harder role, it's a little disingenuous because the husbands never seem to be held to the standard that the wives are. What good does it do to say that husbands have the hard part if they're never held accountable to do their part? Is it the hard part after all?

I'll admit up front that I think Christian husbands collectively need a good head bashing. I often hear women encouraging one another to submit to their husbands and to be respectful and to keep trusting God for the results. But I rarely hear men stirring each other other to love their wives, even when it hurts. And if there's a problem in the marriage, it usually comes down to: "Well, if you were just more submissive to your husband, things would go smoother and iron themselves out."

Doubtful. And the reason it's doubtful is because the wife is not the problem. The husband is. Let's look at this text and see what the problem in every marriage is. "Husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There, I said it. This text is plain scary. And impossible. Think about this. Women are told to submit like the church. Have you seen the church lately? I'd say the women I know are outdoing the church overall when it comes to their role of submission. The church is a flawed group of people. But husbands have a much higher standard - Christ himself. Love your wives like Christ loves. Who can stand?

Let's think about how Christ loves. First Christ loves thoroughly. There is no mixture. If he is for his beloved, then he is all out for her. His affections aren't split, and they don't diminish in any way over time. He never tires in loving his bride and never takes her for granted. Second, Christ loves sacrificially. There is a tremendous cost. He loves his bride when it is incredibly inconvenient. And I'm not talking about listening to your wife when she's talking over the game. I'm talking about taking the punishment for her sin. I'm talking about the bloody, unrecognizable, nauseating hunk of flesh that hung on the cross. I'm talking about the wrath of God being poured out on his head after men had done all they could to him. Third, Christ loves winsomely. He has a fickle, adulterous bride. He never turns his back on her. When she strays, and it is often, he wins her back. He doesn't leave her and never forsakes her. He isn't ashamed of her, though she's worthy of all shame. When she departs from him and then returns, he doesn't punish her or cast her off. He doesn't throw her sin up in her face. He forgives her. And he treats her like she's the most precious object in the universe, like none of it ever happened.

I could go on, but you get the point. Christ's love is so high above anything we've ever seen. And that is how a husband is to love his wife. Every marriage problem is the husband's problem. Period. This doesn't mean that the wife never sins. She may sin often. But it does mean that if there's an ongoing problem, it's his fault. He has to love harder. He has to forgive quicker. Forgive more. Forgive better. Love more thoroughly, more sacrificially, more winsomely.

"Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies." Who does this? How often do husbands expect more from their wives than they do from themselves? One example. I've heard husbands say things like, "I work hard all day, and when I get home I just want to relax a little." Let me translate that. "I've worked for eight hours, maybe hard, maybe just killing time, and when I get home I don't want a list of things to do around the house, and I don't want my television time interrupted." I know many women who work steadily all day long. When I say all day, I mean all day. Not all of an eight hour work day. I mean all day. And into the night when the duty calls for it. Husbands, do you want for your wife the same level of peace and comfort and relaxation you want for yourself? Do you do everything you can to make it happen?

If husbands are going to love like Christ, it's going to take a heavenly-mindedness that can free them from the desire to get everything they want now. For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross. Too many husbands are worried about their comfort in the here and now. When their wives ask something from them, they make excuses and bellyache like adolescents. When their wives are irritable, they push back, rather than absorbing it upon themselves with a smile. When their wives offend them, they find ways to punish, rather than forgive and move on. When their wives are less than respectful, they withhold love, rather than winsomely earning it back.

Husbands, let's not insult our wives by pretending we have the tougher job. Let's honor our wives by proving we have the tougher job. I fear the reason husbands have to remind their wives that they have the tougher role is because they rarely appear to in reality. Don't expect your wives to submit to you when you're a lazy, selfish, half-hearted, hard-hearted lover. Look at the heavenly-minded love of Christ. And then treat your wife the same way.


Anonymous said...

All true, and dangerous stuff for a sinful wife like me to read. I want to, and pray to, submit to my husband, but sometimes the sinful little thoughts creep in that it would be so much easier and more pleasant to submit if only HE would do what HE is supposed to do. Then I have to pray and repent and ask for forgiveness, and for help in trusting and obeying the Lord in his commands to me.

Kati said...

What a powerful post, Darby. It brought tears to my eyes because I have lived the exception; I am blessed to be married to a man who has exemplified Christ's unconditional love for his bride.

My husband has loved me when it was more than inconvenient, but just plain painful. He has taken undeserved punishment for my sin but has never turned his back on his fickle, adulterous bride. He is not ashamed of me, though I am certainly deserving of shame. He has forgiven and has never taken pleasure in reminding me of my sin.

God used an incredibly painful time in our marriage to open my eyes to His grace and mercy shown to me in Christ. My husband, though certainly not perfect like our Savior, has done well to point me to Him through his response to my unfaithfulness. He has PROVEN that he carries the tougher job in this marriage.

(Having written it all out like that makes my job of submitting sound really, really simple.)

Darby Livingston said...

It is truly a blessing when marriage works the way it's supposed to. :)

Amanda said...

I, too, read this post blurry-eyed because I live the exception. I have not achieved that kind of willingness to put self aside and be "all out" for my husband the way he has for me. He continually absorbs my wrongs and returns them with love. He actually sees to it that I get time for myself and time to relax. I don't have to fight for it, in fact he usually offers it before I realize I need it! I don't want to make anyone jealous, I just want to thank God for giving me a Christian hedonist husband who pursues his pleasure through mine. I love you!

Nan said...


Yes, Mandy, I trained Darby up well in the way that he should go, and he has never departed from it! lol I wish that were true! Praise God, for in all the ways that I had failed, God has succeeded! He took a totally dysfunctional family and has done many amazing transformations!!!

If anyone has seen the grace of God at work, it's this family!

I love it when I get a chance to brag on the Lord!


bauerpower said...

I still have tears running down my face. Altho this post was technically directed at husbands, it was very convicting for me. Much more so than the recent post directed at women. Initially I couldn't wait to finish reading it so that I could have Matt read it. "See, not only does our preacher say this very thing, but so does do it already!" (I think the subjects of your last 6 posts were preached on by our pastor VERY recently.) However, like I said at the beginning, it was I who was looking in the mirror at my own short comings as a spouse, and how I fail the Almighty. And how thankful I am that He is willing to buy me back every time since I wouldn't blame my husband for asking for his money back. (I plan to share this post with him only After my self-serving intentions are pray for me!)

JanAl said...

I am humbled by it.

Jess said...

Wow, I love it!!! Alot of the women that I know lift each other up often and give each other support and encouragement to love their husbands rightly and be submissive. It is true that I don't hear alot of men doing the same. I wish they would lift each other up like that, but typically men aren't as much of talkers as women. lol In my husband's defense, I don't always work as hard as I should around the house, but I work longer hours because my job never ends and I don't get to clock out and go home. I have dealt with situations in my marriage where my loving husband has forgiven me for really horrible things I have done and doesn't continue to bring it back up.(I am so thankful for that, but yet soooo undeserving) I have been told before many times that our ability to forgive over and over again makes for a good marriage. I know I have a really strong marriage and very thankful for a pastor that will come over and talk with us when we do have a some issues with each other. Good post and thanks Darby!*S*

Cleyo said...

Marriage is definitely a man made complexity. Satan loves to have his hands all over this unification
which ultimately glorifies God. The instructions are simple, but the application is so difficult. My responsibility as a husband will never be healthy, unless God has full reigns on me. Just as Christ wants us to be one with him, he called the same in my marriage. Not one with my friends, or my parents, not even my children that has my genetics, but with my wife. What a beautiful thing. First I give thanks to God,just for who he is, second for his patients on me as a husband, third for the blessing of his chosen wife for me,(so I best stop messing this one up),fourth for the generous convictions on me, that the holy spirit keeps presenting in my lack of obedience. My hope is to sacrifice like Jesus did.

Darby Livingston said...

What a blessing to see a guy comment on this post. :)

Jenny said...

How wonderful this was to hear... You are right, I have so many friends that are trying so hard to be a submissive wife, and yet their husbands are abusing this direct command for themselves.

My husband is definitely this man, in Ephesians… He has played the role here for me to see. I have felt the love of Christ, right in my husband’s arms. He is my heavy lifter and I respect everything about him. Not because I have to, but because he deserves even more. You said it all, thank you…

Anonymous said...

Pastor Darby,

I think John Piper's "Ask Pastor John" on February 6, "Is it biblical to think that physical attraction must be a component of a godly marriage?", echoes well with your message.