God has entrusted to mere men the awesome privilege and responsibility of loving, leading, nurturing, and cherishing an imperfect woman in the same way that Christ loves his church. A loving husband finds ways to let his wife shine and creates space for her to develop her strengths. He makes it easy for his wife to submit, follow and respect him. Jonathan Leeman describes how a husband is to view his authority in the home:

 “The husband cannot demand respect or submission! His job is to draw his wife towards oneness. He woos her in a compelling, loving, gentle, patient, understanding way. Song of Solomon gives us a picture of the compelling nature of a husband’s authority. You are to win your wife with the compelling power of your love for her and care for her and tenderness for her as you seek to rule the earth together, as God instructed in Genesis 1. How tragic it is when a husband uses his authority selfishly for his own gain. We are called to rule and lead like Christ rules—a beautiful, tender, gentle Saviour.”

Lead like Jesus.

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am referring to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:31).

God’s original plan envisages a husband who is a lifelong lover, leader, and learner.

  1. Lover. Loving his wife is by far the most important responsibility of a husband. Paul summarizes, Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Col 3:19). The beautiful gospel story is enacted when a husband truly, unconditionally loves his wife, over and over and over, daily laying down his life and his desires/needs/wants for her good.

Paul likens a husband’s love to Christ’s love for the church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25).

A husband’s love is a choice (Eph 5:25a). His love embraces feelings, but does not depend on them. Just as Jesus chose to love us even though we were unlovable, a husband’s love ought to be unconditional. A husband’s love is also sacrificial. Christ’s example shows that love is about what a husband gives, not what he gets.

 A husband’s love is exclusive. Although a Christian man is called to love all people, clearly, he is to love his wife as no other. It is a unique love, like Christ’s special love for his church. A husband’s love is other-person focused, not self-focused (Eph 5:28-32). He is to treat his wife in the same way or better than he treats himself.

Love is a perishable commodity.

A husband may protest, “But my wife knows that I love her. Nothing has changed since I stood at the altar and swore undying love.” But love is a perishable commodity. Yesterday’s love must be renewed and expressed to your wife every single day. A husband who does not actively love his wife will wake up one day to discover a distant wife and a marriage that’s withered into a lifeless stick.  A husband who does not intentionally love his wife will progressively become more independent, critical, harsh, and self-centred.

Do the things you did at first.

Another husband may complain, “We’ve fallen out of love. We no longer even like each other.” But in Revelation 2:4-5, God accuses the first century Ephesian church of lovelessness, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the deeds you did at first.” The role of a loving husband is to do the things you did at first when your relationship with your wife was sweet and intimate. Keep doing those things for as long as you have life in your body.

2. Leader. The husband is to lead his wife, as he submits to Christ. “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). This is God’s order for the relationship. It has nothing to do with competence or equality. A godly husband needs to learn to lead his wife well. He cannot abdicate this responsibility by passively standing by and expecting his wife to take the reins, as Adam did in the Garden.

3. Learner. A godly husband seeks to learn and know his wife deeply, so that he can love and lead her better. Peter writes, “Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman, and show her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

An understanding husband is an observant learner, not for the purpose of criticizing his wife, but in order to praise, encourage, and help her become the woman that God designed her to be. He takes joy in her progress.

A dozen practices of a loving leader.

  1. Take the initiative and bear responsibility for important decisions. Never make an important decision without getting your wife’s input.
  2. Take an active role in teaching and disciplining the children.
  3. Be completely committed to your wife in thought, word, deed, and sexual purity. She should know that you are a man of one woman, and she is that woman! Make your wife feel cherished like no other.
  4. Do your best to provide financially (1 Tim 5:8), care for your wife emotionally, and provide what you know will be good for her. However, provision does not mean wealth and extravagance. It is better for your family to enjoy your presence than your presents.
  5. Bring out the best in your wife (Eph 5:26-27). Allow her to shine.
  6. Be actively involved in her spiritual life and provide spiritual leadership for the family. Do everything you can to help her see Jesus more clearly through the witness of your own life. Faithfully pray for her, that Jesus Christ may be glorified in her and that she might know his love and grace. As a couple, write down goals for how you want your marriage to honour God. Initiate devotions and encourage active service in church.
  7. Trust your wife (Prov 31:11). Love believes the best and makes the most charitable assumptions when she makes a mistake.
  8. Order your lives and finances so that she can focus her attention on her home and family (Titus 2:5). Relieve pressure from her shoulders.
  9. Regularly praise, encourage, and affirm your wife (Prov 31:28-29). Everyone responds better to praise that to criticism. Gratitude not expressed is not gratitude. Honour not expressed is not honour. Each time you say the words, “I love you”, you are expressing three profound truths: “I choose you. I am committed to you. I delight in you.”
  10. Show her tender affection with loving touches (holding hands, putting arms around her waist, kissing her goodnight (Song of Solomon 1:2). Affection expressed solely for sexual purposes is not affection.
  11. Protect her from attacks from outside (John 10:27). Be a good shepherd to her.
  12. Creatively find ways to nurture companionship and intimacy (Gen 2:18). Since God created marriage for lifelong, one-flesh union, a loving husband removes all obstacles to this unity. Plan date nights and share the happiest and saddest moments of your day. Find fun activities you both enjoy doing and schedule them into your week. Pray and read the Bible together. The saying is true: “Couples who play and pray together, stay together.”

Five practices of a learner.

  1. A learner regularly reads good books on marriage to develop better skills. Other than Christ, nothing is more important to him than learning how to grow his marriage.
  2. A learner studies his wife’s unique personality, goals, joys, and frustrations. He creates a haven for his wife to share personal things with him. A wife will close down if her husband fails to give her his full attention; makes snide or flippant remarks; cross-examines her like a prosecuting attorney; or gives solutions to her problems but shows no concern for how she feels.
  3. A learner will notice his wife’s strengths, weaknesses, and pressures. A loving husband tries to understand the details of his wife’s life, to help and encourage her. He does not notice her faults to criticize her, but to stretch mercy over her failures.
  4. A learner finds out what makes his wife happy (Deut 24:5). In the Old Testament, a husband was not allowed to do military service for a year after his wedding, as he was to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he married!
  5. A learner understands the obvious differences between men and women. A loving husband does not treat his wife as a male buddy. Most women feel loved when they’re pursued and when their husband initiates romance. A learner realizes that men and women are different sexually and communicate differently—men give summaries while women want the whole story! A learner honours these God-given differences.

An honourable man.

Peter wrote that if a husband dishonours his wife and doesn’t live with her in an understanding way, his prayers will be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). This is a sober warning to husbands. An honourable man treats his wife with the dignity normally reserved for someone above him in authority. Honour is not a highly rated characteristic in our culture, but it is highly regarded by God.

An honourable man is considerate and humble in leading his wife. He is prepared to sacrifice his own comforts, privileges and desires for his bride, as Christ did when He gave up heaven to become a mere man, to lay down his life for his people (Phil 2:5-11). He has the same attitude as Jesus Christ, considering his wife as more important than himself.

An honourable man values and cherishes his wife simply because she is a woman. There is something inherent in manhood and womanhood that requires men to treat women with gentle consideration, understanding, and protectiveness (1 Peter 3:7). Feminists may disagree, but male chivalry finds its roots in biblical truth.

An honourable man does not raise his voice or use harsh or profane words with his wife. A husband who honours his wife listens patiently, speaks kindly, and expresses thanks and courtesy, even when he disagrees with her. As Solomon reminds us, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32)

A daunting task.

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—”(Eph 5:28-29).

If you are feeling inadequate as a husband, this is a good place to be! God has indeed entrusted to mere men the awesome role of loving, leading, nourishing, and cherishing an imperfect woman in the same way that Christ loves his church. This is more than a daunting task; it is impossible in our own strength. But with God’s perfect love and limitless grace at a husband’s disposal, he can set out each new day seeking to trust, obey and glorify Christ in his marriage by loving, serving, honouring and leading his wife. No matter how inadequate a husband may feel, there is perfect sufficiency in God’s grace and his great and precious promises (2 Cor 1:20). Through Christ’s resurrection power, God has promised to give Christian men everything required to be honourable husbands and to build God-honouring marriages (2 Peter 1:3-4). In Christ, you lack nothing.


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