"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church..."
The way Christian husbands are to love their wives is so simply laid out in Paul’s words to the Ephesian church: love her as Christ loved His church (or, His bride). I’m not going to lie, this is tremendously frightening to me. The weight of responsibility communicated in just this little verse packs a hard punch to my manly pride. This has been a lot to chew on as I prepare for my role as a husband. A simple reason for this: Jesus “gave himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Yep, Paul is telling husbands to… die. That’s such a simple observations, but it can demolish a worldview. Husbands are to die for their wives.
But I am not married yet. So, in light of this verse, how does it apply to me, today? How do I “prepare” to die for my wife-to-be? I’ve been reflecting on this for the better part of this last year now, but all I can filter this verse through is my lens of SINGLENESS. Singleness has been a dear friend of mine. We’ve known each other for 28 years now. Paul is addressing husbands when he writes this, but how does Ephesians 5:25 impact Matt, a single guy, who wants to get married?
Below are some of my reflections on this. My biggest take away from Ephesians 5:25 during this season of singleness bliss has been to have a mindset and lifestyle of preparation for marriage. I hope my single and engaged brothers will enjoy and be challenged by these reflections.
1. Before the church existed, Christ prepared himself for her. 2,000 years ago, right underneath their noses, Christ was preparing to go to the cross to purchase His bride. His unpurchased bride was blind, deaf, dumb, broken, lame, and completely unable to help herself upon his arrival in the manger. And certainly, while I was in the depths of nonexistence, and when my parents weren’t even born yet, Christ was readying Himself for me and the church in this age. This brings me to this next thought…
2. I cannot expect my future wife to be “prepared” for me. Rather, Ephesians 5:25 calls for the husbands to take on that responsibility. Paul doesn’t say, “Wives, die for your husbands.” Christ fulfilled the Old Testament, went to the cross, died, was buried, rose again, ascended to Heaven as all authoritative Governor of the cosmos (where he currently sits right now), and sent His Spirit to fill His bride. Sealed! done! He put a ring on it!
3. Woo-Woo! Christ wooed His elect to Himself, before He came, while He was here, and after He came. How can I woo my fiancé to myself? As I’ve been getting to know Nati, how can I be quietly working behind the scenes to prepare for her? How can I, right now, work so that when the wedding day comes, she will not have to worry about a single thing spiritually, emotionally, and physically? This is how Christ loved me before I knew Him. He did this work 2,000 years ago when He crushed the serpents head (Genesis 3:15) on the cross.
4. Knowledge given & increasing. I now have a knowledge/understanding that Jesus loves me. It is a knowledge that is increasing more and more. But it’s a knowledge that I was brought into and was given once Him and I were united (when I was “born again”). In the same manner, my future wife, Nati, hasn’t known the extent of how the Lord has worked in my life in the last 28 years. Sure, she has a general snapshot of my life but it’s been extremely limited. She hasn’t known the battle I’ve had in fighting to prepare for her, though I never knew she was out there. She didn’t know the mockery of “celibate until marriage” I’ve had tossed at me the last seven years of being a Christian. She doesn’t know the loneliness that her future husband has endured while the world has thrown it’s lusts at him. She didn’t know or understand that I’ve longed for and have been awaiting her. She’s not aware that I’ve been getting ready to give my life for her, and that I’ve already been pursuing her by fighting to make my way pure and reserved for her. She didn’t know my prayers for her as Jesus prayed for His future bride in the garden before His death (John 17). As we approach marriage, more and more of these things will be revealed about me to her. My life, however is a messy and imperfect picture of Christ’s love for His people. I hope and pray that, through our life together, our marriage will be a beautiful display of this glorious gospel of Christ.
5. Protection. God has always, even before Jesus came, been protecting His chosen. Once Jesus came in flesh, He protected, fed, loved, called, and is now building His followers. “Who can separate us [Christians] from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) Paul asks. As I seek, as unmarried man, to be working at building and maintaining my future marriage garden, I ought to protect it from outsiders, and only let in holy things. I ought to advance and extend this garden of holiness on the earth through my life and testimony. I hope that my vertical gaze will impact my horizontal efforts in the world. I hope Nati finds herself attracted to the fruits of these hidden efforts. I hope she loves the fruit she sees in this work. Once marriage comes for husbands, this effort does not cease but presses onward as we await our Ultimate Groom, Jesus Christ, together, who will look at our efforts and be pleased in our love for Him.