How A Wife Should Love Her Husband
NCW 21, July 1995
Q. There are lots of modern ideas around nowadays about love and especially about love in marriage. Even the churches seems to have different ideas. Your church seems to have a straight Biblical picture of marriage. How would Christ have me love my husband?
There are indeed many ideas about love and marriage, and nearly all of them man-made and therefore relativistic. But before I answer your question about your relationship to your husband let me first look at love in the wider context.
To begin with, Jesus commands us to "love one another." This is not an opinion, not a suggestion, but a commandment. There is nothing to debate about. Anyone who is a Christian is under a divine obligation to comply even when other Christians aren't particularly loving. This means, boiled down, that we have no right to expect or demand love from others, but we have an absolute obligation to love them back irrespective of their love, or lack of love, to us. Any other definition of love is unbiblical and not of God.
We all know that God hates sin but loves sinners and He demands that we do the same. If we don't we have no right to call ourselves Christian, let alone New Covenant Christian. "And this is His commandment, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us" (1 John 3:23). This commandment is both to believe and to behave -- it is both faith and works which we see here are quite inseparable.
How many times did Jesus give this commandment? Many! "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:24), and again: "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you" (John 15:12). Paul echoes the Master: "Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another" (1 Thess.4:9). So really, if we are Christians, and God dwells in our hearts, we have no need to tell one another these things! In fact, I really oughtn't to be writing this at all if we are who we claim we are! All the apostles knew this truth both in Jesus' day and in ours. Peter said: "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet.4:8; also see 1:22). And John adds that we keep the commandment "which we had from the beginning, that we love one another" (2 John 5).
This commandment applies to men and women irrespective of their gender. One gender is not supposed to love more than the other in the brother-sister relationship. But marriage is rather different because it is a shadow of the love of Christ's love for the Church (Eph.5:22-33). It is a supplement to the brother-sister relationship, one step higher, because it is a shadow of God's relationship to us. Note this well -- that a husband is enjoined to love his wife sacrificially as Christ did for the Church (v.25,28,33) and in response the wife is to SUBJECT HERSELF to her husband (v.22,24,33), thus showing her love for her husband (Titus 2:4).
The Smith & Goodspeed translation, which I personally have a very high regard for, puts it this way: "You married women must subordinate yourselves to your husbands, as you do to the Lord...Just as the Church is in subjection to Christ, so married women must be, in everything, to their husbands" (v.22,24).
This commandment, need I say, runs totally contrary to everything taught in our liberal, feministic and neo-matriarchal Western society. If you want to know how Christ wants you to love your husband then consider the relationship the Church is supposed to have to Christ. Is that relationship anything less than complete and total submission? And is that not indeed how the Lord defines whether or not we love Him? Did not Jesus Himself demonstrate His love for the Father by submitting Himself to every commandment of His Father?
This scripture is not, of course, a license to husbands to be tyrannical dictators. It is a commandment to women who are married to genuinely Christian husbands who walk in the Lord. It is the husband's right. Why? Because the responsibility of a husband in Christ is exactly the same as Christ's responsibility to the Church -- to consecrate her and cleanse her through her confession of him as her husband in all eternity, to bring her faultless before God (26-27). Not, I add, in his power, but in Christ's.
This is a deep doctrine and not easily explained in a short article such as this. It is also a doctrine that ignites fury in the hearts of feminists. However, rest assured, that there are no feminists in heaven just as there are no male chauvinists. You see, husband and wife are one body -- two personalities and yet one, just as the Father and the Son are two Persons yet one God. They are not rivals but partners.
When God made Eve out of Adam He took not only a rib but, more correctly translating the scripture, his side, which would have included flesh and blood. Eve was a clone of Adam and quite like him in every respect save that she was a woman, his counterpart. That's why Paul says that a true husband never hates his wife because such is to hate one's own body (v.28-28). Likewise, a true wife does not want to lead an independent existence but to be united with her husband. She is him, and he is her. It is therefore quite natural for a true wife in Christ to desire to be 100% subject to her husband in all things, and it is the desire of a true husband to sacrifice 100% for her. And this, according to God's Word, is love.
Paul said that this was "a great secret" (v.32). Yes, it is a secret -- a mystery -- and God will only reveal it to those who truly love their spouses. Husbands, do you love your wives? Then give of yourselves to them. Wives, do you love your husbands? Then obey them in all things and subject yourselves to them. Anything else is not love but open rebellion against your husbands and against your God. And when you are in open rebellion against God you cannot know Him for He will not reveal Himself to you.
This is one of the first laws that must be obeyed in Zion. Without it, the unity and oneness of Zionic love cannot be. Zion -- which is those of us called to live within her walls -- must be in total subjection to the Lord, casting aside all our personal dreams, hopes and ambitions, whether lawful or unlawful. Similarly, wives must cast aside all their personal dreams, hopes, and ambitions, whether lawful or unlawful, so that she may enter into the unity of her husband and together with him fulfil their joint destiny to be Zion-builders.
Lest we forget (or reject) the clear commandments of God, note what the Lord says through John: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome" (John 5:2-3; 4:7-8). If they are burdensome, then there is a deficiency in our relationship to Him and in our relationships with each other as brothers and sisters, and as spouses. It's inevitable.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." This is not sentimentality -- it comes from obedience to the commandments. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another...if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected" (v.11-12).
Sisters, if you are in rebellion against your husbands who are walking in the Lord then the love of God is not in you, because you are in rebellion against the commandments. That means you are alone in your rebellion. That aloneness may lead to confusion of mind, uncertainty, doubt and panic. But if you are properly subjected to your husbands in the Lord, then you are one with him and with God, because He is seeking to do God's will.
Now it would be too easy to leave it at that but the Word of God demands that the whole picture be given. When a Christian woman is in rebellion against her husband who is in the Lord and seeking to do His will, and yet maintains that she is in the Lord herself, she is a liar. "And all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev.21:8, NASV). And if a husband seeks to dominate his Christian wife to make her an object of his own will and not the Lord's, he too is a liar, and will suffer the same fate. So there is no inequality in the relationship!
Your spouse is not perfect but if both are genuinely seeking the Lord's will then both must fulfil their respective callings as a husband to bless and sanctify, and as a wife to obey and be submissive -- to the Lord. "God showed His love to us while we were yet sinners" (Rom.5:8) and we must do the same to one another. Imperfectly, unlovely, as we walk in His steps and follow Him, we will love the brethren, and our neighbours, and our spouses as ourselves.
This page was created on 2 May 1998
Last updated on 2 May 1998
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