Of a Special Kind

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; ~ Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; ~ Ephesians 5:25

Being a man often means being wrong in a man-ish sort of way.

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.”

Are You A Christian Single?

I have occasionally been asked for recommendations for helpful books for Christian singles to read. I wish I could give such a recommendation based on my own experience while single. I did not find these books until after I was married, but they have enriched me and have particular value for Christians who are unmarried.

Find your purpose in life in the purpose of God in the world.

Find your purpose in life in the purpose of God in the world.

Through Gates of Splendor
By Elisabeth Elliot

I could give many reasons to read this book, whether you are single or not. This is the biographical account of five young missionaries—Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Pete Fleming—who were killed by the native tribe they were trying to evangelize in Ecuador on January 8, 1956. These were young men who were not satisfied with the status quo for young people and lived and died for a higher purpose. They did not count their lives dear nor waste them pursuing comfort, convenience, pleasure, and safety.

As a college student in 1949, Jim wrote the words in his journal that have lived on after him: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Elisabeth was married to Jim at the time he was slain and she wrote this book and went on to write many others. They met while in college but were not married until after Jim had gone to the mission field. This book is a love story as well as Jim and Elisabeth were seeking God’s will in their lives. It serves as a good introduction to their story that will be filled in more by the next books.

Finding the purpose of patience and the power of waiting on God.

Find the purpose of patience and the power of waiting on God.

The Journals of Jim Elliot
By Elisabeth Elliot

This book is a collection of journal entries Jim began in college and continued until his death. They give insight into his mind and heart on a number of issues. One of those issues was his relationship to Elisabeth. The waiting involved had to be difficult and his journals show he was not stoical. He struggled and wrestled with the delay, but he ultimately believed it to be God’s will and drew power from Him to be sustained.

Young Christians today live in a world both saturated and obsessed with instant gratification. There is no value in patient waiting and the world’s power is pushing you to jump. Everything is at your fingertips. Why wait?

If you pay close attention, you will learn some ways to wait in these books. If you are looking to nothing beyond what are you waiting for, you will not wait. Many young Christian adults who are unmarried find themselves in some estranged place between childhood and adulthood. They have finished school but aren’t married and don’t know what to do with themselves. Too many view it as a time to be free, goof off, and play the field. It is a transitional time, but not one to be wasted. It is a time of preparation, but that is not all. It is a time of freedom, freedom to serve (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

Don’t be obsessed with getting married so that you neglect service now. Be immersed in the Word and will of God and redeem the time to honor Him with your life. Know that marriage in the Lord is great happiness and worth the wait.

Jim Elliot was also an example of biblical manliness. Such examples are increasingly hard to find today. He was athletic, smart, articulate, and a natural leader. He could have used his gifts and charm to achieve uncommon levels of success in the world. He chose rather to go to the Ecuadorian jungle in obscurity. He was disciplined and when he participated in sports, he did not do so to win trophies and honors. He did so as a way to train his body for the rigors of missionary life. You can read more about this in his biography: The Shadow of the Almighty.

Find the Lordship of Christ in matters of the heart.

Find the Lordship of Christ in matters of the heart.

Passion & Purity
By Elisabeth Elliot

This book gives Elisabeth’s perspective on her relationship with Jim. Biblical principle is the guiding theme of this book and she illustrates with many examples from her own experience. If we search this book for the one thing she has to say about relationships and pursuing marriage, it would distill to one word—obedience.

The subtitle is: Learning to bring your love life under Christ’s control. That is the issue. Hollywood and Disney tell you, “Just follow your heart,” and “The heart wants what the heart wants,” and “You can’t help who you love.” Are you going to submit to the Lord of Heaven and Earth who designed marriage and designed you for it? Or, are you going to follow a multitude in pursuit of the Greco-Roman ideals of romance. The two worldviews do not walk together because they are not agreed. Which way are you going to go?

This book will help you think about some of these issues from Scripture.

Find another way to see relationships that is not self-centered and indulgent.

Find another way to see relationships that is not self-centered and indulgent.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye
By Joshua Harris

Harris used to be that son of the homeschool guy, but this book really got him known. And for good reason. His book is countercultural and controversial in many places. Still today I find people have strong reactions to it. Many have never read it and dismiss it immediately with disgust. If you have heard some hype that colored your opinion negative, I say forget about that and read the book yourself. As you do so, don’t sift it through the filter of peer opinion. Think about it carefully and filter it through Scripture.

This book will challenge you on many points. I was smitten when I read it over my own failures and selfishness in my youth. Harris shows the selfishness and self-centeredness inherent in the recreational dating and relationships that are so prevalent today. One of the challenges here is to think and act deliberately in this area rather than living in the moment and constantly seeking casual fun.

The world views it all as harmless and just having fun and just being young, etc. Harris cuts through that to the truth of the emotional toll paid by this whole system. Adults that have come through it, seen their children come through it, and young people who are going through it know this is true. There is a high debt to be paid for going down this road.

I hope this helps in some way. My only intention is to help and be a blessing to you. I got a lot of things wrong at that time in my own life. I suffered pain because of it. Even worse, I inflicted a lot of pain on others through my pride and selfishness. There is a better way. I want better things for you and for my own children. But the only way to have it is to walk in God’s way.

    All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. ~ Psalm 25:10
    The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. ~ Psalm 37:23