Christian marriage is about the gospel. It's intended to be a living parable of the gospel of Jesus - his love for his bride, the church. And, Christian marriage only becomes a beautiful portrayal of that gospel when it is soaked in that gospel. So, dive into the deep pool of gospel grace in Ephesians, all won for you by the sacrificial love of Jesus. And then you'll find power that animates you to live that parable in your marriage.
I love an illustration I've heard Russell Moore give on a couple of occasions. It's a great example of the fruit of meditation on Ephesians 5. It goes something like this:
What if I said, 'Men, I want to draw your attention to (fill in your name) here. This man is a hero. Do you know what he did?
When he went to bed last night, he adjusted the pillows in such a way as to provide maximum comfort for his body.
When he woke up this morning – imagine this! – he got into the shower and washed his body with warm water and soap. He cares for his skin in such amazing ways!
He then lovingly checked the weather – he checked the weather! – just so that he could clothe his body in clothes appropriate to the day’s temperature range.
And that’s not all! He then went downstairs and he prepared food. He did the hard work of getting out a bowl and choosing a cereal that appealed to his body’s appetite. He then pulled the cold milk from the fridge, and poured that milk over his cereal and he intentionally!, proactively!, perseveringly placed bite after bite of delicious cereal into his mouth so that his body could have energy from which to draw strength for the day.
Can we get a round of applause for (your name)? This guy is a hero!'Silly, huh? But it's actually pretty serious...and convicting...and helpful.
It's aimed at helping us understand Ephesians 5:28-30, and live it out in real time.
"In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."You and I are called to love our wives as our own bodies. To love your neighbor-wife as yourself. We all naturally nourish and cherish our own bodies. Well, the Bible says that our wives are one flesh with us! No closer "neighbor" than that! We learn to love them by paying attention to how we take care of ourselves, and then applying that same care to them.
What if you loved your wife AS YOURSELF?
What if you cared for and nourished and cherished her as much as you do your own body?
What if you wanted to nourish her emotionally and spiritually with as much desire as you have for your physical appetites to be satisfied?
What if you cherished her and sought her well-being as much as you cherish your well-being and comfort?
What if you were as jealous for her to have time to rest and read and pray as much as you want time to relax?
When you see a desire for your own good, God is teaching us to connect the dots for the sake of love!
Are you loving your wife as your own body?
What if it was as AUTOMATIC as it is for your own body?
Wouldn't your marriage begin to tell a different story?
It would be a living parable of The Greatest Love Story.
You'll need serious grace for this. God knows that. So, the gospel is not only the pattern for Christian marriage. It's also the power. This kind of humble, loving, sacrificial, servant heart will only grow in you as you keep your eyes on Jesus (again, remember that commendation of sustained meditation on Ephesians 5:22-33?!). How has he loved and served you? We dare not lose sight of it!
The man in Russell Moore's illustration isn't a hero. It doesn't take any grace to take care of yourself. But it does take a ton of grace to love your wife as Christ loved the church; to love her as your own body. Praise God, grace is available by the megaton!
There is a Hero Husband, and it's not you. Jesus loved you with a totally undeserved, even-when-you-were-running-the-other-way, to-the-utmost, almost-too-good-to-be-true, never-say-die sort of love. Get your eyes on that Hero Husband, and his grace will enable you to love your wife in truly heroic, sacrificial, steady, sweet, strong, sensitive, non-self-pitying, free-from-score-keeping, gospel-adorning ways.