Of a Special Kind
Ephesians 5:22-33 is a glorious passage on marriage that addresses both the husband and the wife. Verse 25 is one of the key verses and well known. We start out, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,” and that’s about as far as we get. We then launch into all the ins and outs of ways that Christ loves the church. We unwittingly discourage husbands by painting a picture up high in the sky they cannot possibly reach. And, then what?
I’m not at all for low-bar standards for husbands when it comes to loving their wives. So I don’t think it wise or good to paint the high picture and then set it aside and give husbands light reading about planets and love dialects, or whatever. I much prefer the inspired Word in its context. Verses 25-33 all work together and they’re not wholly unconnected from verses 22-24. Paul did not only say, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church.” He went on to explain in what way Christ loved the church that is the model for Christian husbands. He explained that Christ loved the church by giving “himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). At least, we know it is a sacrificial love that the husband is to have for his wife. However, the husband is not the savior of his wife, and Paul had no intention this way.
Paul made the application in the passage so men would know what it would look like to love this way. Mere mortal husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, meaning they are to “love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). Paul means nourishing and cherishing your wife (Ephesians 5:29). It might seem here that Paul steps out of the Christ/church love into something else, but he maintains at the end of verse 29 that is how Jesus loves the church. Paul acknowledges the mystery in verses 32, but concludes the whole paragraph this way: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself” (Ephesians 5:33). I’m not suggesting there are no difficulties, nor anything to be learned, but loving your wife the way the Bible commands is within reach for every man (Ephesians 5:29).
Tone-deaf, Boneheaded, if you will
Men have many species of problems that are common to men, but I will select one specimen for examination. Men tend to be tone-deaf in regard to their wife’s concerns. This works out in a few different ways.
- Dismissing. If a wife expresses a concern, worry, or even a complaint, we men are quick to dismiss it as nagging. Nagging really is a thing and women can be guilty of it (Proverbs 19:13; 27:15). That doesn’t mean, though, that anything a wife says, which her husband doesn’t want to hear, is nagging. A wife’s concerns are her concerns, whether her husband thinks she should be concerned about it or not. Since your wife is your concern, husbands should be concerned about her concerns.
- Ignoring. When a man grows up in a busy city, he becomes accustomed to the continual din of such a city. He reaches a place where he no longer notices the noise until he goes to visit relatives out in the country where the crickets and frogs keep him awake all night. Men can also become accustomed to their wives to the point where they don’t take much notice of what she says. Maybe they say, “Yes, dear” as easily as they breathe but they do not register what she has to say.
- Misunderstanding. Men tend to think in certain ways and approach problems in certain ways that are exasperating for many wives. So the wife comes and tells the husband about problems C, A, and B and the husband wastes time telling her she’s got the order all wrong. I mean, everyone knows it goes A, B, C, D, etc. We all learned the song in kindergarten for mercy sake. This classic male blunder is missing the point and not understanding the real cause. This reminds me of a husband and wife I saw in a store a couple of years ago. The wife was obviously upset with her husband, “You never think of me. You only think of yourself.” He was just as obviously surprised by her assertion, “That’s not true. I was just thinking of you when I walked in Walmart, because I knew I had to find you.” That is a special kind of boneheadedness that, I daresay, only a man could attain.
Duct tape for the soul
How should a husband deal with the concerning things that are a problem for his wife? Paul said to love your wife as you love yourself, or maybe we should say as you ought to love yourself. How do men love themselves when it comes to concerns that are a problem for them? They might at times be slow to get to it, but they generally address it. If a man is trying to build or fix something and he is continually frustrated by the fact he doesn’t have the right tool, what does he do? If he’s going to the deerstand or bass lake before dawn in the snow, what does he do? He makes sure that he has what he needs. If he’s going to need food, he gets it. If he’s going to need to keep warm, he makes sure he has the necessary clothing. If his boots are falling apart, he might fix them with duct tape but he’s probably going to get another pair.
I was going around my yard for the first mow of the season this spring. When I got to a certain part, I hit my face on a branch. I stopped the mower and thought about how that branch was always in the way when I cut the grass. I immediately fetched a tool and cut all the branches that forced me to stoop unnaturally when cutting the grass. This is one of the ways a man loves himself. He takes care of his problems. He anticipates needs and provides for them. Paul says to do this for your wife. You know how to take care of your problems and so you also know how to love your wife. Anticipate her needs, provide for them, and take care of her problems promptly.
I conclude with this: Don’t be a bonehead. When your wife is concerned about something, try to understand the cause. When a man is driving down the road and hears a noise from the innards of his car, he notices it. If he never hears it again, he soon forgets it. But if the noise persists and grows worse over time, he knows he needs to get it fixed. So he takes it to the shop and tells the mechanic about the noise it makes. If the mechanic treated him the way he treats his wife, the mechanic would say, “So it’s making a loud noise? Easy, just turn up your radio and you won’t hear it.”