Ephesians 5:25-30 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.
Love can mean many things in many different contexts. Sometimes I see videos on Facebook depicting members of the animal kingdom who ought to be natural enemies acting like family. Maybe you see the family cat snuggling up with the pet parrot. My cat loved birds. She thought they were delicious. She loves birds as much as any predator loves its prey.
That’s the way some men may seem to love women, as though they are stalking their prey for consumption. It’s all about getting what they want. I shouldn’t have to say that’s not the kind of love Paul has in mind.
“Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” You know the story. Jesus gave up heaven to come and live in this slum. He gave up the full use of his power, and the full display of his glory, to wait in lines like everybody else. He let infections invade his body. He looked so unmistakably human that it was hard for most people to believe he could be anything more. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Aren’t his mother and his brothers here with us?”
Jesus gave up food and sleep to serve and teach and heal. Finally, the Inventor of Life gave up his life and died without honor on a cross. Do you want to know what love looks like? “This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
None of this was about Jesus taking care of himself in some way. His purpose was to make you–his people, his church, his bride–holy, radiant, and blameless. It is your your salvation, your spiritual beauty that concerns him. So he washes you in your baptism. He dresses you in his own holy life of love. When he is done he presents you to himself so that he can gaze at the beauty you have become.
Is any man equal to the task of becoming such a little Jesus to his wife? Here is a picture of the man who makes his wife the lifelong object of his adoring study. He is never finished with learning what she needs and how to unlock her potential. He puts her on a pedestal and treasures her second only to the Savior himself. No person, no hobby, no career, no possession could mean as much as this woman the Lord has made his bride.
A second picture takes us further into how a Christian husband regards his wife. “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.” We love our bodies, not in the sense that we are always satisfied with the way they look, but in the sense that we do what we can to take care of them. They don’t always work right. Sometimes they even hurt. Even then we care for them.
When my children used to hurt themselves a little–maybe a cut, a sliver in a finger, or a stubbed toe–I would joke with them, “Let’s just cut it off, and then it will be all better.” They didn’t think it was funny. The point is, even when something hurts or isn’t working, we don’t hate it. That’s when first aid comes out. When our bodies are hungry, we feed them. When they are tired, we let them sleep.
Jesus regards us in the same way. We are his own body, united to him in the marriage of faith. Obviously, we don’t always work right, spiritually speaking. We can be a source of pain or discomfort in the body of Christ. But Jesus doesn’t hate us for it. That’s when he gives us extra care. His grace rests our souls, nourishes them and heals them, because he has united us to him as a part of his body.
Husbands, that’s how we regard our wives. We don’t love them because they always make us comfortable or happy (though they often do). We love them because they have become a part of ourselves, and taking care of them is like taking care of ourselves. Doing so is just another way the Christian husband follows Christ.