Marriage always provides fresh opportunities for personal growth, especially for people like me who forget what they’ve learned so quickly. Sin, after all, isn’t just a threat to present and future behaviors; it’s a threat to our past as well, a threat to our memory. Learning lessons isn’t always what’s difficult for us; remembering them for next time is the trick. That’s the linchpin for forming new habits, replacing old patterns with new ones. One of the most potent marital lessons we can learn continually comes from a beautiful and striking statement in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
“Yes, yes,” we think. “The church is Christ’s bride; husbands need to be sacrificial and all that . . . we get it.” Well hold on just a second. Slow down and peer into the depth of this love.
The Crucified Lord
Christ was mocked for the church. Jesus was laughed at (Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:40; Luke 8:53). They jeered at his humble glory and guffawed at his greatness. Strangers in need of salvation paraded by his broken, bloody body, pretending to be his loyal subjects (Matt. 27:29). They soaked his skin with sinful spit (Luke 18:32). He felt the sting of hateful words whipping at his soul.
Christ was scourged for the church. It wasn’t just words they whipped him with; it was leather, too—soaked in blood and covered with bits of bone and glass (Matt. 20:19; Mark 10:34; Luke 22:63). His skin took a beating for his bride. He was marked, bruised, and lacerated for his lady. He did it willingly . . . lovingly. But the greatest act of love was full on self-offering.
Christ was crucified for the church. His body was nailed to tree limbs that he’d spoke into being (Gen. 1; Ps. 33:6; John 1:1). Arms out, feet pinned down, utterly exposed and open—that’s how Christ loved the church. He held nothing back. He kept nothing for himself.
Husbands, love your wives that way. (It’s okay to have no words right now.)
The Crucified Husband
I don’t know about you, but Ephesians 5:25 is flat out scary! It pierces through the heart of our old sinful selves. We have all of these passions and wishes and plans, don’t we? They’re as mundane as morning coffee and as massive as mega churches (though the latter isn’t one for me). I’m constantly putting my own wishes and wants above others’, my wife included. Why? Especially when she’s constantly putting others above herself.
Oh, we know the answer—better than a bedtime nursery rhyme. Sin is an ancient word, and we grow tired of pronouncing it. Do you know what sin is, in essence? It’s the breaking of communion through distrust. That’s what happened in Genesis 3. That’s what’s happened ever since. We distrust. We distrust that God will provide for us. We distrust that God will carry through on his promises. We distrust the work that God’s doing in the lives of those around us.
In marriage, we distrust the very one to whom we are bound in one flesh. We distrust that our spouse has our best interests at heart, regardless of whether he or she may be showing it. We distrust that God will provide for us, so we put ourselves before our spouse. We say, “Let me just take care of myself first, and then I can help.” Perhaps you’re a better spouse than I am, but those crooked words always seem to find a way into my ear canal.
That’s not a crucified husband. A crucified husband keeps nothing for himself. A crucified husband goes out his way to be mocked, scourged, and sacrificed if it means the betterment of his beloved. A crucified husband lives Christ out in relationship with another.
Where Can We Start?
Where can we start to be crucified husbands? How can we take the words of our Lord and live them out? Why not start with words? As creatures bound for communion with God and others, why not start loving our spouse with language—word by word, affirmation by affirmation, compliment by compliment, confession by confession, praise by praise, invitation by invitation? It was the eternal Word of the Father, after all, who loved his bride simply by showing up and opening his mouth (Matt. 5:2).