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. Ephesians 5:25-27

Our Lord Jesus led by example. He never said to His Father, “Father, I won’t humble myself and lay my life down for these until they come around and love me the way they should.” It makes me chuckle writing that statement because it’s so antithetical to Jesus’ heart. He may have felt that way at times, but He never, even once, acted on those thoughts or feelings. Wow – what if He had?

It is disturbing – the number Christian marriages that are breaking and going down the toilet. It grieves God that Christian men view commitment, sacrifice and humility so flippantly. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.” This scripture isn’t bilateral. It’s unilateral. Men are called to be Christ-like by loving their wives like Christ loved the Church. It’s a command, not a “would be nice” thing to do. I don’t believe it’s necessary to site example after example of Christ’s sacrificial love. There are far too many to write! It isn’t knowledge men lack – it’s obedience.

Generally speaking, men have become complacent, fearful and deceived about their God-ordained role as husbands. Men have succumbed to the lies of Satan and even well-meaning Christian friends and counsellors that we are “owed” something first. Statements like “If only she would respect me”, or “She doesn’t show me affection any more”, and so on are all-too-often the excuses men use to opt out of their God-ordained calling. We love because He first loved us is what men need to remember. Sacrificial love is not easy and it’s often not immediately rewarding, and sometimes never (ouch). Webster’s dictionary describes sacrifice as “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else; something given up or lost”. What Christian husbands are called to sacrifice, according to scripture, is pride, living for this world, and giving in to fear. Godly sacrifice is surrendering self-interest and looking after the interest of another – in this case a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife.

When men live out their calling as husbands Jesus is glorified and God is pleased regardless of outcomes. There has been too much teaching along the lines of “If you do this she will respond like you want her to”.  Maybe, maybe not. Do you always respond to Christ’s love in ways that He desires? The objective is not getting your wife to respond the way you want – this can easily turn into manipulation. The call is unilateral love – one way love without expectations that emulates Christ’s love for the Church. It is a transforming love that “presents her to Christ without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish”.

Finally, there is the matter of order and spiritual warfare. Husbands are the head of the marriage, so when husbands choose to forfeit their ordained role, the enemy has an opening to attack the relationship – and he does! This is like a general walking away from his troops in a time of battle. If you’re a married man, you no longer get to choose whether or not you’re in a battle or if you’re the general. You can only choose to embrace it or not. When you walk away from your wife physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually you leave your marriage unprotected from the enemy. This is a spiritual principle and a fact. It is not dependent on your wife’s choices – it’s your choices that are protecting the marriage and your family. Your obedience is to Christ, and this is your calling as a husband and as a man. This of course is an impossible call as a man, but take heart, God, through Jesus Christ, has given you everything you need for life and Godliness.

Lord, please forgive us, for as men and husbands we have believed lies about our calling and we have made willful choices to disobey you. The truth is you have called us to a unilateral love just like your love for the Church. Lord, while it is true that wives are called to respect and honor their husbands, we sin and live faithless lives when we walk away from our call and our identity as husbands when we don’t get what we want.

Lord, please help us in your grace to receive our needs first and foremost from you. We ask that you now fill our hearts with a deeper revelation of your love that will overflow into our marriages, that we will believe the scripture, and that we will make choices that reflect you. Amen.