As I am preparing my second year of seminary, I have been reminded again that I do not fully understand what it means to love my wife. I had an conversation with a good friend of mine on this very issue. He had been reading a book by a well-known Christian author who said that men learn how to love their wives when they learn how to love themselves. I responded that this idea seems backwards from the teaching of the Scriptures. The Scriptures teach that we learn how to love our wives by meditating on the love of Christ for his church.
I have heard many a sermon which taught that the love of Christ was self-sacrificial. This is obvious from the text: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). Unfortunately, there isn’t a period at the end of that statement, but a comma. Is self-sacrifice the essence of Christ’s love, or is there something more? I have yet to hear it. But notice the text:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27 ESV).
This was not just self-sacrifice. This was self-sacrifice for the sake of sanctification. Christ sacrificed himself for the cleansing his chuch with the washing of water with the word. He sacrificed himself for the presentation of the church to himself in magnificent, stainless, holy beauty.
In other words, husbands, you love your wife like Christ loved the church when you will sacrifice whatever it takes for your wife’s holiness. If that means time off of the blogosphere, time from the endless books, time off of the channel-surfing, whatever needs to be sacrificed to tend to her soul. If that means scheduling a regular time to wake up to pray for her, so be it. If that means spending less time on your hobbies (outdoor work, car work, sports, etc.), so be it. If that means changing your work hours, or even turning down a job, so that you can go to church with your wife, so be it. If that means building relationships with solid, God-centered couples so that your wife can be surrounded by other women who pursue Christ, so be it. Whatever it takes.
My biggest fear with seminary is that I would be so concerned with my studies that I will neglect my wife. The intensity of the work and study loads are such that I am exhausted when my day is over. I come home to two boys who need attention from their Daddy, and a wife who needs relief. Regrettably, the last thing on my mind is the love of Christ and the holiness of my bride. I pray that God will give me an undivided focus on Christ, so that I will study deeply to love Christ more deeply, and that such devotion will open my heart to the depths of love for my wife’s soul.